Cure for the Common Breakup by Beth Kendrick

breakupA light romance, contemporary, not exactly the sort of thing I usually go for (it seemed more vulgar than light-hearted sexy fun) but I enjoyed it enough.  Summer is a flight attendant who doesn’t like to be tied down to any one person or place, but a plane crash and near proposal find her re-evaluating things. She heads to a charming seaside town known for being the place to go to after a breakup.  All the residents and establishments cater to weepy women and they all take to Summer right away. In no time at all she’s ingratiated herself to the community, taken on the bitchy lady, decided to get the hunky mayor for herself, and taken on the meanest, nastiest, richest old lady who controls the whole town.  It’s all a little too easy, unbelievable, and lucky, but it would suffice for a quick summer read. (I gave it 3 stars.) p.s. regarding the cover: the kids were so interested in that mile high ice cream cone but once I started looking at it (we were making up flavors for each of the mostly improbably colors) all I could think was that the food stylist actually used Play-Doh to make the “ice cream” scoops and I could only that whenever I looked at the cover. What flavor do you think that intense forest green would be?

Just One Day by Gayle Forman

justoneI was somewhat reluctant to read this, believing it would be just like the movie Before Sunrise.  But a friend told me to read it and I did and I really liked it. (Reading this right after Fangirl, though, when I try to think about the book I get a bit mixed up between the two since they both have girls in their first year of college adjusting to that whole life. That’s the only similarity, though.) So, yes, there is a similarity to Before Sunrise-two people meeting in Europe and having a brief time together before parting, but it was actually quite a bit less romantic. It’s the summer before college and while on a “Teen Tour” straitlaced, bound for pre-med, rule abiding Allyson spontaneously goes to Paris with a boy she saw perform Shakespeare in a way that touched her straight in the heart. Off they go through the Chunnel to the world’s most romantic city, where they have a wonderful, exhilarating day together. It’s not perfect, though, as Allyson constantly wonders if he’s genuinely attracted to her or if he has girls all over the city. I though the whole book would be this one day, but it’s not! For they split rather unexpectedly and then the remaining half of the book is Allyson doing terribly at college because she can’t stop thinking about her lost European love and what a fool she was. Until…she decides to go find him. I thought this was a charming book even though recently I’ve been feeling bitter about every book I read and how unrealistic everything is (really Allyson? You can just get a summer job that’s perfect with witty, caring, people who feed you well and nurture your ridiculous dream of going to Paris with nothing but a plane ticket?).  I was very ambivalent about the ending, but I think I like it and I understand the setup for the sequel, which I will certainly read.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

fangirlI loved this!  Cather and her twin, Wren, are off to college in Nebraska. There are all kinds of things going on. Their dad is a manic-depressive ad-man (totally like Robin Williams’s character in that recently axed tv show, leading me to believe that all creative advertising people are totally manic) and she’s worried about how he’ll get along with his daughters gone. Their mother left them all when the girls were only 8 years old. Cather and Wren are tight and of course Wren drifts away from her as soon as school starts, opting to go for the college drinking and partying experience. Cather is nearly socially phobic and happy to spend all her time in her room, writing. You see, she is an incredible writer and widely known in certain circles of fan-fiction writing. What totally impressed me in this book was how Rowell created first the world of the book series of Simon Snow, then Cather’s own writing about Simon. The series is somewhat Harry Potter-esque and Cather has been writing for years. She is now writing her own final book in the series in anticipation of the series’ real final installment, due at the end of the year.  She gets tens of thousands of hits on everything she writes. But no one really knows who she is! That’s really what I found so interesting-she’s basically famous, and an amazing writer in her own right. Honestly, despite the craziness going on around her I found myself envying her and wanting to point out that she just doesn’t know how good she has it. And her roommate’s darling ex-boyfriend is cute and charming and falls for her. And her roommate is hilarious in a strange and brusque way. Cather navigates this new world of college, finds her writing voice, copes with her family, and copes with change in a unique story.

Debutante Hill by Lois Duncan

debutanteWhat a treasure to discover now! This is one of the Lizzie Skurnick books and it’s a reissue of Lois Duncan’s very first ever published novel (from 1957.)  I really enjoyed beginning by reading Duncan’s introduction, which explained all about how she came to write this story, first as a short story, and then to develop it into a novel, which then went on to win a literary contest which launched her writing career.
The daughter of a doctor, Lynn lives a pretty golden life. She’s pretty, popular, and part of the “the Hill”, which is where the privileged families live. She’s never really thought about that much before, though, happy just to enjoy her circle of friends and her boyfriend. But now it’s her senior year and her boyfriend has gone off to college (giving her his ring when he leaves) and the big news in town is that they are going to have debutantes. All the debutantes will spend all year having special parties, complete with a full week of daily events during the Christmas break, concluding in the spring with the big formal coming-out. Lynn is excited until her father expresses his disapproval of such a divisive activity, pointing out it will only worsen the class divide in town. So Lynn is not a debutante and all her friends are and she’s left out of parties and of course discovers that the the “lower class” kids are all perfectly nice and there’s no reason not to be friends with them. For all the novelty appeal of reading about the dating conventions, Lynn spending a morning ironing and doing her nails, and the like, there is a lot of substance to this story and pretty impressive that Duncan, as a young writer, managed to weave in issues of class and privilege.  I really enjoyed this!

 

Ladder of Years by Anne Tyler

ladderAs I may have mentioned, 2014 is going to be my year of rereading books I’ve loved and never take the time to revisit. I first read Ladder of Years a long time ago, in my 20s, before I was married.  It might seem strange that a book about a woman who one days just walks away from her unappreciative family and begins a new life would resonate so much with me at the time, but it did. I just loved it. And there have been many times over the years that I’ve thought fondly of the book, especially at times when I, too, thought there was something very appealing about taking a break from regular life and just walking down the beach-away. So, here it is probably almost 20 years or so later and guess what? I loved it just as much. In fact, maybe even a bit more because one thing I had forgotten was what a good writer Tyler is. So many sentences were just beautifully crafted, with precise and thoughtful word choices. I loved the line when Delia says something like she had not realized that worry could be dumped into someone else’s lap, like a physical object. How freeing!
The story is that Delia Grinstead, wife to Dr. Grinstead, mother to three older (teen/adult) children, one day during their family vacation just goes for a walk and somehow finds herself leaving them.  She doesn’t really mean to-it just happens. In her bathing suit and husband’s beach robe, with just her tote bag.  She winds up in a very quaint small town and, surprising herself, rents a room in a boarding house. Just for one night, she thinks. But then she buys a dress at the thrift store and when she puts it on feels like she is putting on a new persona. And this persona is someone who is solitary, contained, neat, and precise. This person also is very confident.  All things Delia not only has never really felt, but that her family certainly never believed her to be. They take her for granted, consider her flighty and silly. Delia takes a job as a secretary and day by day is further away from her messy former life. One thing I noticed (as I have often when I read books/see movies from earlier in my life) is that this story just wouldn’t be the same today with computers and cell phones.
This is a beautiful story and perfectly told. I was surprised by one rather significant detail which I couldn’t believe I didn’t remember. Other parts came back to me as I read them and were wonderfully nice to read again. I had forgotten the quiet humor that occasionally turned up. I had also forgotten that there is an element to the ending that I did find unsatisfying and I wonder if when I first read it I reacted the same way or not.
A terrific book!

The Thousand Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham

VMYou might already know that not only am I a huge Veronica Mars fan, but also a big fan of Rob Thomas back when he wrote YA. So when news came out that a book was coming out as a follow up to the movie I was pretty psyched. Although I received this for my birthday I managed to put off reading it until this week-when I raced right through it. It was super!! Basically, it was like reading an episode (well, maybe more like 2 or 3) of the show. Written exactly as the tv/movie dialogue is, same style mystery and solve, etc. As I read I saw the entire thing in my head.  Which, as a fan of the series, is exactly what I wanted. There were many pages in the beginning that were really exposition for anyone who hasn’t seen the show or movie, and if you haven’t it’s very easy with all of that to be caught right up.  There were many character and story mentions from way back in the show, which is also a nice treat for fans, while not being confusing for those who haven’t seen it. The only teeny tiny disappointment for me was that I felt I could tell it wasn’t just Rob Thomas writing-it just didn’t have quite the same feeling as his previous books and I could tell it was heavily co-written. But that’s ok! And, not a disappointment, but kind of weird-the title isn’t especially relevant to the story (which is about two girls who vanish during Spring Break.)
I hope that this becomes a long running mystery series with a book a year. I could easily see it being a very Sue Grafton/Kinsey Milhone detective type of series.

Great mystery, the snappy clever Veronica attitude and dialogue I’ve come to expect, and I liked how it picked up after the movie and furthered along her story. There were also some great surprises in here, dramatic moments, red herrings, and overall a good story.

I can’t wait for the next one!

Heirs and Graces by Rhys Bowen

heirThis is the latest in the Her Royal Spyness series and while it had most of the elements I love have to expect and love in the series, I just didn’t enjoy it as much as the others. In fairness-I read this in dribs and drabs and very disjointedly. But the flip side of that is that I didn’t find it compelling enough to just finish in a few days.
The setup this time is that the Queen arranges for Georgie to go stay with an old friend of hers (a dowager Duchess.)  This lady wants her at her estate because a new heir to the dukedom has just been found-a young Australian man who had no idea he was British nobility. His uncouth behavior and the duchess’s shock at it is a wonderful pairing. It’s also great how his not-raised-there take on the nobility and class structure is voiced and basically calls it all out for the ridiculousness that it is. Anyway, the current Duke, Cedric, is a total ass who won’t care for his family and announces he’s going to adopt his French valet so that Marcel will be the next Duke and it’s all a mockery of everything everyone else holds dear. Fortunately (or unfortunately, in Cedric’s case) Cedric is promptly murdered and of course, discovered by Georgie.  The investigation begins and I have to say–the solution is nothing you could figure out on your own (which I’m fine with.)
I don’t know if it’s because I read it so slowly or what, but it just didn’t seem to have the same witty momentum as the other installments in this series.