Tag Archives: chick lit

New Releases: July 3rd

Finally after over a month off, I have a TWO new books to enjoy! July is loaded with five releases that I am eagerly anticipating.

Team Human by Justine Larbalestier, Sarah Rees Brennan

The Lowdown: This book is the first collaboration between YA authors Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan.

From Goodreads.com

Just because Mel lives in New Whitby, a city founded by vampires, doesn’t mean she knows any of the blood-drinking undead personally. They stay in their part of town; she says in hers. Until the day a vampire shows up at her high school. Worse yet, her best friend, Cathy, seems to be falling in love with him. It’s up to Mel to save Cathy from a mistake she might regret for all eternity!

On top of trying to help Cathy (whether she wants it or not), Mel is investigating a mysterious disappearance for another friend and discovering the attractions of a certain vampire wannabe. Combine all this with a cranky vampire cop, a number of unlikely romantic entanglements, and the occasional zombie, and soon Mel is hip-deep in an adventure that is equal parts hilarious and touching.

Why you should check it out: Whenever I look at the the YA books that are featured on the Goodreads giveaways, I see a ton of vampire novels. All of these stories tell the same tale of the girl falling in love with the mysterious vampire. These plots–always told from the point of view of the girl–discuss how interesting and amazing this dangerous creature is. The protagonist’s friends are seen as the enemy for trying to get between her and the object of her affection.

Are you sick of these books? Are you tired of reading about a young woman who needs her supernatural boyfriend to survive? I have a feeling Team Human is the answer to this phenomenon, because this book focuses on the friendship between the girls more than the boyfriend-girlfriend relationship. I really feel that this perspective will make for a stronger and more interesting characters. I am really curious to see the authors’ take on a vampire story. I feel as if Larbalestier and Brennan can create a vampire story that I will enjoy.

The excerpt I read confirmed my high hopes for this story. The female characters seem smart and witty. The vampire is enough of a parody to be enjoyable without inducing eye rolls. When combined with author Maureen Johnson’s review of the story–”If you love vampire books, this is the book for you–if you hate vampire books this is also the book for you”–I realized I needed to buy this book ASAP. After all, if Maureen Johnson says you should read a book, you probably should.

Not sold yet? Check out the first chapter here and promo video here.

The Next Best Thing by Jennifer Weiner

The Lowdown: This story follows the life of Ruth Saunders; a character Weiner previously introduced in a short story Swim. That tale details Saunders’ life as a freelance writer who edits the college essays of prospective students. Weiner’s latest novel discusses Ruth’s life as she prepares to rejoin the television world after an extended absence.

From Goodreads.com

Blockbuster #1 New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Weiner returns with an irresistible story about a young woman trying to make it in Hollywood…

At twenty-three, Ruth Saunders headed west with her seventy-year-old grandma in tow, hoping to be hired as a television writer. Four years later, she’s hit the jackpot when she gets The Call: the sitcom she wrote, The Next Best Thing, has gotten the green light, and Ruthie’s going to be the show-runner. But her dreams of Hollywood happiness are threatened by demanding actors, number-crunching executives, an unrequited crush on a boss, and her grandmother’s impending nuptials.

Set against the fascinating backdrop of Los Angeles show business culture, with an insider’s ear and eye for writer’s rooms, bad behavior backstage and set politics, Jennifer Weiner’s new novel is a rollicking ride on the Hollywood rollercoaster and a heartfelt story about what it’s like for a young woman to love, and lose, in the land where dreams come true.

Why you should check it out: I checked out the prequel to this story–Swim–because it was free. After reading that small tidbit of Ruth’s life, I needed to know more. The first chapter only made me more excited about this book. I knew immediately that this story was a must-read.

I have previously discussed my love for the way in which Weiner depicts relationships in her novels. Whenever I finish one of her books, I can guarantee that I feel an emotional connection to the woman I just read about. Even though I may not have had the same life experiences as them, I still felt as if I understood where they were coming from and what they went through.

The stories are more than just tear-jerking tales of female bonding. Weiner takes the humor she constantly displays on her twitter feed and interjects it into her books. I am also hoping that Weiner’s experience as a showrunner for the short-lived TV show State of Georgia will be lead to interesting anecdotes of working in Hollywood.

After finishing this post, you must go and check out the short story Swim. It is free and can be read on your computer. I know that after reading it you will add The Next Best Thing to your to-read list.

New Releases: May 1st

Here is the first of my posts about new releases I am excited for. I am starting off with a bang by discussing three new books. I hope I can inspire you to check out at least one of them!

Insurgent (Divergent) by Veronica Roth

The Lowdown: Insurgent is the sequel to Roth’s dystopian YA novel Divergent; winner of the Goodreads Choice Award for Favorite Book of 2011. The book deserved the win, and I’m hoping the second book in the trilogy is just as good.

From Goodreads.com

One choice can transform you—or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves—and herself—while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Tris’s initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable—and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.

New York Times bestselling author Veronica Roth’s much-anticipated second book of the dystopian Divergent series is another intoxicating thrill ride of a story, rich with hallmark twists, heartbreaks, romance, and powerful insights about human nature.

Why you should check it out: I know it’s hard for people to get excited about another YA dystopian novel right now. I’ve read a lot of them and have only loved a few. So far this series has been one of my favorites. Why? I really enjoy the fact that the protagonist is a strong woman who survives based on her own skill and determination. It also helps that she is not in the middle of a love triangle. This is a refreshing change from other dystopian novels, which makes for a strong story. If you still aren’t convinced, you can check out the first few chapters here. Just be warned that these chapters will contain spoilers for the first novel Divergent. I can not wait to start this book after pre-ordering it weeks ago.

The Lucky Dog Matchmaking Service by Beth Kendrick

The Lowdown: The Lucky Dog Matchmaking Service is a standalone novel by Beth Kendrick, and it’s Kendrick’s eighth fiction release.

From Facebook.com

Lara Madigan has a gift. She can help you find your soulmate—your canine soulmate, that is. As a dog trainer with a soft spot for strays, she’s found the perfect home for sulky Shih Tzus, broken-down border collies, and diabolical Dalmatians. But while she’ll always make room for one more rescue mutt, she’s not sure she’s ready to commit to another human being. Especially after her live-in boyfriend drops the bomb: he’s not a dog person.

Horrified and temporarily homeless, Lara and her furry pack move in with her mother, a wealthy fashionista who forbids even a single drop of drool. As word gets around the exclusive gated community, Lara is overwhelmed with demands for her services. A model wants personal training for her overweight “flabrador”. An aging socialite preps her pedigreed puppy for dog show domination. If Lara can survive the breakup, the outrageous requests of her high-maintenance clientele, and her dogs systematically destroying her mother’s McMansion, she might finally find the rescue dog who rescues her back– leading her straight to the guy who could be her perfect match.

Why you should check it out: I picked up my first of Kendrick’s books–Nearlyweds–on a whim. I enjoyed it enough that I purchased her next novel; The Pre-Nup. Again I found it worth my money. I checked out her 2010 release–Second Time Around–after wining a copy. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book in contrast to the first two. I felt as if the writing had really improved. Kendrick was able to depict relationships so much stronger in this story than her previous story. The way she showed the connection between the woman of the novel made me relate to the characters and cheer them on.

I was lucky to win a copy of the author’s 2011 release The Bake-Off. This time the plot focused on the bond between sisters who ha not always gotten along. Again I found myself loving the story. This helped me reach the conclusion that Kendrick’s writing improves with each new release. To me this means that her newest story will be the best yet. Not convinced? Check out this excerpt. That snippet was enough to persuade me to get my hands on this book soon after its release.

Jeneration X: One Reluctant Adult’s Attempt to Unarrest Her Arrested Development; Or, Why It’s Never Too Late for Her Dumb Ass to Learn Why Froot Loops Are Not for Dinner by Jen Lancaster

The Lowdown: Jen Lancaster returns to her nonfiction roots with this release. I have checked out–and loved-her five previous memoirs.

From Amazon.com

In Such a Pretty Fat, Jen Lancaster learned how to come to terms with her body. In My Fair Lazy, she expanded her mind. Now the New York Times bestselling author gives herself—and her generation—a kick in the X, by facing her greatest challenge to date: acting her age.

Jen is finally ready to put away childish things (except her Barbie Styling Head, of course) and embrace the investment-making, mortgage-carrying, life-insurance-having adult she’s become. From getting a mammogram to volunteering at a halfway house, she tackles the grown-up activities she’s resisted for years, and with each rite of passage she completes, she’ll uncover a valuable—and probably humiliating—life lesson that will ease her path to full-fledged, if reluctant, adulthood.

Why you should check it out: I have read the author’s previous five memoirs and loved them all. The crazy antics in Lancaster’s life have often made me laugh out loud while reading. They are the perfect stories for when you just want to escape from your own life for a bit. Sometimes you need that in a book. I know that someday when I’m having a crappy week I’ll read this book and it will be able to put a smile on my face. Looking for an example of the sort of crazy you can expect in this book? Check out the author’s trailer for the book here.

I hope you enjoyed this first post about the new releases I’ll be checking out this week. I’ve helped others add something to their “to-read” pile.

Rapid Reviews

I thought that the birth of my daughter would mean a decrease in time available for reading. The opposite has proven to be true. My evenings–which used to be full of me running around the house getting things done–are now filled with me sitting on the couch holding my sleeping daughter. I have found this is the perfect opportunity to clear my shelves of some books that have been sitting in my “to-read” pile for ages.

Unfortunately I have found little time to write reviews for these books. My free time usually comes with a baby on my lap, leaving no free space for a laptop. The result is a lack of book posts up on my blog. I have decided to rectify this by doing a sort of “rapid review” post discussing some of my recent reads.

Book cover of Thin, Rich, Pretty by Beth Harbison The first book I want to review is Thin, Rich, Pretty by Beth Harbison. The story is told from three alternating points of view that rotate between the present and past as the story unfolds. By using this technique each narrator only divulges small pieces of the story. The reader is able to use all of these tidbits to create the full plot. This approach helped the tale develop slowly until everything was revealed at the end and left room for interesting twists and turns. The resulting story was quite enjoyable.

The book cover for "Fly Away Home" by Jennifer WeinerJennifer Weiner uses also uses flashbacks and multiple narrators in Fly Away Home. I found this to be much less successful. The author’s use of flashbacks was less structured and sometimes left me feeling confused. I often wondered if I was in the past or present. Another disappointment was the fact that I found one of the women narrators to be boring. Her story lacked anything that would make it interesting to me. My final issue with the story was that the conclusion of the book left me with no resolution. I had high hopes for this book when I purchased it, but was left feeling disappointed.

Book cover for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium #1) by Stieg LarssonThere was no disappointment when I finished The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. I found all three of Larsson’s novels–Hornet’s Nest plus The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo–to be interesting and entertaining. All three novels in the trilogy started slowly, but soon were impossible to put down. This was a series that had sat on my shelf for several months. I ended up blowing through all the books in a week in a half. The characters were complex; the story was original. I’m glad I finally read this series.

Book cover of Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen I have no idea how Water for Elephants ended up on my bookshelf. It has probably been there for two years waiting for me to read it. It finally got picked up this weekend as a result of being the only book left unread on my shelf. I had very few expectations when I started reading this book. I ended up discovering a book that I would pick up again for a re-read. Recently I have found myself reading mostly YA stores and tales of women in their early 30′s. This story, told by a male narrator alternating between life in his 90′s and early 20′s, was a refreshing change. I loved how the plot focused on the life of a member of the traveling circus. I had never before wondered about such a life, but now feel inspired to know more. I don’t know how this book ended up in my life, but am glad it did!

Book cover of Hook Line and Sink Him by Jackie Pilossoph Like Water for Elephants, Hook Line and Sink Him has a male narrator. In Water for Elephants the author captures a man speech and thought in a way that I felt was realistic. The author of Hook Line and Sink Him creates a man who comes off as a stereotype. I hope that the men around me think of things other than constantly bedding women and the local sports teams. My inability to believe in the main character meant that I could never really get into the storyline. It was entertaining but not enthralling. The result was a book that I will probably forget about in a month or so.

Book cover of Girls in Trucks by Katie Crouch Girls in Trucks is a book I can’t wait to forget. I picked it up at Target after reading the book’s description. I found the book to be disappointing. Starting with a seventh-grade girl named Sarah, the novel jumps unpredictably through her life. These jumps were not executed well, often leaving me feeling jarred. Characters came and went with no rhyme or reason, making me feel as if I had missed something. There was no resolution to one story before being thrown into the next. The only constant was the main character’s habit of smoking pot, which just irritated me. Upon finishing this book I felt like I had wasted a lot of time. Very disappointing.

So now I find myself looking for book recommendations. I need suggestions! My shelves which were once full of “to read” piles are now in need of a refresh. I’ve given many book suggestions over the past year, and now am asking for you to return the favor. What books should I check out?

The Bake-off by Beth Kendrick

Thanks to the “First Reads” program on Goodreads.com I was given an Advanced Readers Copy of The Bake-off by Beth Kendrick. This book is the subject of my next review.

The Bake-off book coverSuburban soccer mom Amy has always wanted to stand out from the crowd. Former child prodigy Linnie just wants to fit in. The two sisters have been estranged for years, but thanks to a series of personal crises and their wily grandmother, they’ve teamed up to enter a national bake-off in the hopes of winning some serious cash. Armed with the top-secret recipe for Grammy’s apple pie, they should be unstoppable. Sure, neither one of them has ever baked anything more complicated than brownie mix, but it’s just pie-how hard could it be?

I previously won and reviewed Second Time Around by this author, a book I thoroughly enjoyed. When I saw that The Bake-off was being given away on Goodreads.com, I made sure to enter. I was thrilled to find out a won a free copy of the book to review. My previous experience with the author meant I started the book with high expectations.

My first reaction to the book was to the cover. I appreciated how the cover image is very different and original. In my opinion this helps it really stand out amongst other books. In a row of new releases, I would pick up this book for a second look–I loved that!

I enjoyed the relationships that the author depicted in Second Time Around. I found myself loving those in The Bake-off even more. Like Amy and Linnie, I have a sister who is close in age. This enables me to relate to the different feelings that exist between siblings. Kendrick captures these emotions on the page, creating a story that I found myself easily identifying with.

The story told in this novel supports the great characters. The main theme of the plot–sisters competing in a bake-off–is as original as the cover. The situations they encounter made me want to continue reading. I couldn’t wait to see how the sisters worked their way out of some of the trouble they ended up in. The creative story kept my interest throughout. I was almost sorry to get to the last page!

Review: Great book!!! I thoroughly enjoyed it. Kendrick’s great storytelling created a page-turner that I hated to put down. I found the characters interesting and real. The story was funny and entertaining. I can’t wait until this book is released so others can enjoy it!

Most Anticipated Books of 2011

I have set my reading goals for 2011; now it’s time to start choosing the books! Below are seven books that I eagerly anticipate reading this year as I aim to complete my goal.

The Book of Tomorrow by Cecelia AhernFirst up for release is The Book of Tomorrow by Cecelia Ahern. The January 25th release date is right around the corner. Ahern’s novels are a refreshing change from the ordinary, due to the setting of the books. Her plots seem to take place in a world very similar to our own, with an extra magical layer to them. This fantasy world has worked in all of her books except her last. I hope her newest release is more successful at maintaining the balance between reality and extraordinary.

Delirium by Lauren OliverI named Lauren Oliver’s debut release Before I Fall my favorite read of 2010. I was excited when Oliver announced her next book, Delirium. This book is the first in a trilogy scheduled to be released over the next three years. I usually wait until all of the books have been released to start a series. I plan on breaking this trend with Delirium. The first reason is the book’s description. It reminds me of one of my favorite books, Uglies by Scott Westerfeld. The second reason is that my love for Before I Fall has me very eager to has me very eager to read more from Oliver.(Bad Pun Alert!) I am delirious to get my hands on a copy of this book!

Two Kisses for Maddy: A Memoir of Loss & Love by matt logelinOver two years ago I started reading a blog by new dad Matt Logelin. The blog was very different than those by other new fathers. Matt lost his wife less than forty-eight hours after welcoming his daughter into the world. The words on his blog were honest and emotional. I was quickly enthralled by his story. Even though the man was a stranger, I found myself rooting for him as tried to move past the tragedy in his life. He is now telling his story in Two Kisses for Maddy: A Memoir of Loss & Love. The memoir will be released April 14th. I plan to have a box of tissues available for this read; it’s going to be a real tearjerker.

Abandon by Meg CabotMeg Cabot has two books being released in 2011. The first up is Abandon, due out April 26th. This book is the first in a new series she is writing. Her second story–Overbite–is the follow up to her 2010 release Insatiable. I am a bit apprehensive about both stories. Insatiable started strong, but I felt that it got a bit “out there” at the end. I’m hoping this is not the case in Overbite. The description of Abandon gives me the same concern. This is upsetting because I have loved her earlier works. I hope to be able to enjoy her Supernatural releases as well.

The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson Abandon is not the only story I’m excited about being released on the 26th of April. That is also the publication date of the long-awaited sequel to 13 Little Blue Envelopes. I have been eager to get my hands on The Last Little Blue Envelope since Maureen Johnson announced it over a year ago. The original is one of my favorite works by Johnson; I hope the same is true for its sequel. Johnson is also releasing The Name of the Star in September of this year. This book is the first in her “Shades of London” series. I loved her submission in Zombies vs. Unicorns because it was a bit darker than her usual work. I am hoping that this latest series is more of that darker tone. If so I feel it will be one of her more enjoyable novels.

There are two other notable releases I want to mention. On June 21st Ally Carter will release the second book in her Heist Society series. I can’t wait to find out what hi-jinks Kat and crew encounter in Uncommon Criminals. Jen Lancaster is releasing her first work of fiction on May 3rd of this year. I have found her previous memoirs to be hysterical and can’t wait to see what If You Were Here is about.

2010 Year in Review

I completed Ready or Not by Meg Cabot on December 28, 2010. This marked the 78th book I read that year, and I met my goal of reading 78 books! In celebration I will be highlighting some of my favorite–and one least favorite–of 2010.

Favorite Pregnancy Read

Nominees: Knocked Up: Confessions of a Hip Mother-to-be by Rebecca Eckler and Baby Bargains, 8th Edition: Secrets to Saving 20% to 50% on Baby Furniture, Gear, Clothes, Toys, Maternity Wear and Much, Much More! by Denise Fields, Alan Fields
Winner: Baby Bargains, 8th Edition by Denise Fields, Alan Fields
Book Cover for Baby Bargains, 8th Edition by Denise Fields & Alan FieldsI judged this category based on which book I felt prepared me the best for my impending motherhood. These two books are very different from each other, which made it difficult to choose a favorite. Knocked Up was an entertaining and realistic tale about the journey of pregnancy; it is a great memoir. Baby Bargains wins the category, however. This book helped me prepare for the new baby the most. As a first time mom, I know nothing about the products available for a newborn. This book was invaluable in helping figure out which items I needed and which I didn’t. I loved how this information was all in one place for easy reference. This is such a great book that I recommend it for all new parents.

Favorite Series

Nominees: Airhead Series by Meg Cabot, Gallagher Girls by Ally Carter, The Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins, and Mediator Series by Meg Cabot
Winner: Mediator Series by Meg Cabot
Cover of Shadowland (Mediator #1) by Meg CabotI didn’t realize how many great book series I read this year until I tried to pick a winner. All four series were full of five-star books. In order to pick my favorite, it came down to one fact: which series was the most consistent throughout. Two of these series–Airhead and Hunger Games–started off strong but the series’ finales left me disappointed. To some extent this also happened with the latest Gallagher Girls book. This was not the case in the Mediator books. Each book had a consistency that I enjoyed. I picked up the first and finished the last within forty-eight hours. The entire time I was interested and engaged in the plot. I enjoyed how Cabot was able to tell Suze’s story over six books while keeping the plot connected and entertaining. Note: While the Mediator series wins this category, all four series are “Must Reads” in my book.

Favorite Goodreads “First-Read”

Nominees: Second Time Around by Beth Kendrick, The Council of Dads: My Daughters, My Illness, and the Men Who Could Be Me by Bruce Feiler, Lay the Favorite: A Memoir of Gambling by Beth Raymer
Winner: Lay the Favorite: A Memoir of Gambling by Beth Raymer
Lay The Favorite book cover What I like most about Goodreads giveaways is that they give me a chance to read a book I wouldn’t normally pick up. This is true of all ten books I have won. I appreciated all but one of them, with Lay the Favorite being the one I enjoyed the most. The fact that I had nothing in common with the main character, yet still was still entertained by her story, made the book more interesting for me. The book was a real page-turner that had me interested throughout. I never would have purchased this book, but am really glad that Goodreads gave me the opportunity to read it.

Worst Book of 2010

Nominees: Rich Again by Anna Maxted, The Carrie Diaries by Candace Bushnell, The Gift by Cecelia Ahern
Winner: Rich Again by Anna Maxted
Book Cover of Rich Again by Anna Maxted I previously mentioned that I picked up this book solely based on its cover. The bright colors and shopping bags made me believe the story was a typical Chick Lit plot with a bit more conflict. Instead I found a book with a confusing setup, unlikeable characters, and morbid plot. There was not one enjoyable aspect in this story. I have never before been unable to finish a book and was only able to complete this one because I heavily skimmed it. Such a bad book all around.

Favorite Memior

Nominees: Sliding Into Home by Kendra Wilkinson, My Fair Lazy: One Reality Television Addict’s Attempt to Discover If Not Being A Dumb Ass Is the New Black; Or, A Culture-Up Manifesto by Jen Lancaster, Didn’t I Feed You Yesterday?: A Mother’s Guide to Sanity in Stilettos by Laura Bennett
Winner: Sliding Into Home by Kendra Wilkinson
Book Cover of Sliding Into Home by Kendra WilkinsonSo, I have a confession to make. I have a small obsession with all things related to the original Girls Next Door; Holly Madison, Kendra Wilkinson, and Bridget Marquardt. I was very excited when I heard that Wilkinson was going to be releasing a memoir. I figured this book would give me a little extra insight into what went on behind the scenes of the TV show. I was also interested in learning a bit more about what Wilkinson’s life was life before her time at the mansion and what brought her there. Apparently I wasn’t the only one interested, as it was impossible for me to get my hands on a copy of the book until a week after it had been released! Once I was able to start reading, I found myself enjoying the pace and flow of the story. Her truthful tale was the perfect mix of history and humor that defines her. This book may not be on the same level as some of the other five-star books I read this year, but it served as a needed escape. It was the perfect way to get some “guilty pleasure” time in and getaway from the insanity that can be real life.

Favorite Chick Lit Novel

Nominees: Second Time Around by Beth Kendrick, The Brightest Star in the Sky by Marian Keyes, Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin
Winner: Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin
The cover of Emily Giffin's now book "Heart of the Matter"Most of the Chick Lit stories I read in previous years were fun and flighty. They involved a single girl shopping her way around town while looking for the right guy. This year I discovered that authors were moving away from this type of story in favor of serious tales. Emilly Giffin was able to successfully tell the tale of the challenges of marriage after writing great “boy meets girl” stories. There was very little about this book that didn’t work. I highly recommend it to all of my Chick Lit blog readers.

Favorite YA Novel

Nominees: Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green, David Levithan, Love is the Higher Law by David Levithan, Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver, The Hunger Games & Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Winner: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
Book Cover of Before I Fall by Lauren OliverIt was a great year for me in terms of YA books. A quick look at a summary of YA books I read least year shows that a high percentage of the them rated four or five stars. It was hard to narrow this list down to the nominees. It was even harder to pick a winner! After much deliberation I picked Before I Fall. I started reading the book with no expectations. Lauren Oliver was a new author who was not from the usual circle of authors I read. I finished the book with a changed attitude. The way in which Oliver discussed the life and death of the main character was inspiring. I find myself often recommending this book to friends and strangers. Such an amazing book.

So, those are some of my favorite books of 2010. What were some of your favorite reads?

Mini Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella

It’s time to review another book for the Chick Lit Challenge. This time I’m discussing Mini Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella.

From goodreads.com

 Mini Shopaholic (Shopaholic #6) by Sophie Kinsella Nothing comes between Becky Brandon (née Bloomwood) and her bargains. Neither act of God nor budget crunch can shatter her dreams of wall-to-wall Prada. Every milestone in her well-shopped life (travel, long-lost sister, marriage, pregnancy) inspires new vistas to explore in the name of retail therapy. But now she faces her greatest little challenge yet: Becky’s two-year-old daughter, Minnie.

While motherhood has been everything Becky dreamed it would be—Baby Dior, Little Marc Jacobs, and Dolce & Gabbana for toddlers—adorable Minnie is wreaking havoc everywhere she goes, from Harrods to her own christening. Her favorite word is “MINE!” and her penchant for Balenciaga bags, Chanel sunglasses, and online purchases has no rival under age five.

Becky is at her wits end. On top of this, she and her husband Luke are still living with her parents. Thankfully it appears house buying attempt number four is a go! Until a huge financial crisis causes panic everywhere, and nobody wants to shop—not Becky’s personal shopping clientele, not her friends, nobody. And with Luke in the doldrums, it’s time for Becky to step in—with a party: A surprise birthday party for Luke (on a budget) is the perfect antidote to everyone’s woes. At first.

Will Becky manage to keep the party of the year a surprise? Can she hire jugglers, fire-eaters, and acrobats at a discount? Will enlisting the help of Luke’s unflappable assistant to convince him to have another baby realize her dream of matching pom-poms? Will Minnie find a new outlet for her energetic and spirited nature (perhaps one with sixty percent markdowns)? She is, after all, a chip off the old shopping block. And everyone knows a committed shopper always finds a way.

Sophie Kinsella has written six books in her Shopaholic Series. The first three books were cute and endearing. Becky’s various dramas and inability to save money were amusing. Her skill at finding a way to fix everything at the last minute had you rooting for her throughout the story. I found these books to be quite enjoyable.

The last two books in the series were a different story. Becky showed little growth as a character. Her antics–which started off as funny–became repetitive. When I’m reading a story, I hope to see the main character grow and change; something Becky seems unable to do. Her lack of growth led to books that felt repetitive and formulaic.

This disappointing pattern is not broken in Mini Shopaholic. The only difference in Becky’s latest adventure is the addition of a two-year-old accomplice. Becky is now able to excuse her shopping habits by passing them off as her daughter’s. This small addition is not enough to make the plot interesting. I struggled to get through the first half of the book. I kept hoping that the “How does Becky get herself out of trouble this time” storyline was enough to continue reading. Luckily it was worth the wait.

The first half of this book was mostly a tale of self-indulgence and reckless behavior. By contrast, the second half was interesting and moving. I enjoyed how the relationship between Luke and his estranged mother was explored. This story grabbed my attention and made me want to keep reading. The storyline did not entirely save the book, but made me glad I stuck with it.

As always, the book ended as a setup for another addition in the Shopaholic series. I would be interested in reading this next book to see what is in store for Luke and his mother. Unfortunately I feel this followup story will again focus primarily on Becky and her flighty tendencies. I would have hoped by now that she had learned something, but clearly not. Perhaps the next tale will be the one in which we finally see Becky grow as a character.

Review: I feel as if this book would be more enjoyable to someone unfamiliar with the series. As a standalone story, the plot is interesting. As part of a series, it feels recycled. There are only so many times I can read about Becky’s repeated mistakes before I start wondering why she has yet to learn anything. For fans of the series, I suggest this as a library read. It is OK but not worth the $13.50 purchase price.

Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin

Even though I was eagerly anticipating this book’s release, it sat on my bookshelf for four months. I finally got some inspiration to pick it up this weekend. Although this is not a banned book, it does help me cross of another book on my Chick Lit Challenge list. Here is my review of Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin.

Heart Of The Matter book coverTessa Russo is the mother of two young children and the wife of a renowned pediatric surgeon. Despite her own mother’s warnings, Tessa has recently given up her career to focus on her family and the pursuit of domestic happiness. From the outside, she seems destined to live a charmed life.

Valerie Anderson is an attorney and single mother to six-year-old Charlie–a boy who has never known his father. After too many disappointments, she has given up on romance–and even to some degree, friendships–believing that it is always safer not to expect too much.

Although both women live in the same Boston suburb, the two have relatively little in common aside from a fierce love for their children. But one night, a tragic accident causes their lives to converge in ways no one could have imagined.

In alternating, pitch-perfect points of view, Emily Giffin creates a moving, luminous story of good people caught in untenable circumstances. Each being tested in ways they never thought possible. Each questioning everything they once believed. And each ultimately discovering what truly matters most.

Heart of the Matter was one of the Books of Summer that I was eagerly anticipating. In that post I talked about two reasons I loved Giffin’s work. The first is her skill at depicting interpersonal relationships. The second is the characters she creates. Both of these skills were well represented in her latest novel.

The main thing that stuck with me after I finished this book was the realness of it. I believe this feeling was a result of the characters Giffin created. Often I find characters to be either “too perfect” or “too flawed.” When this happens, I find it difficult to become interested in the plot due to the lack of reality in the characters. In this story each character is believable due to their good mix of strengths and flaws. Each character is balanced enough to make them feel like real people instead of plot points.

The credibility of the characters lead to a quality of realism to the story. At some points the story was so personal that I felt like I was snooping into a neighbor’s life. I felt guilty enough to want to put the book down; however, my curiosity got the better of me. While this book could have easily been predictable, I never wondered what came next. I think this was due to the fact I was riveted by what I was reading and didn’t want the experience to end.

Review: I was a bit reserved in my excitement about this book due to the fact I had not enjoyed Griffin’s last two releases as much as her first two. This book ended up being perhaps my favorite of her novels. Giffin again demonstrated her great storytelling ability, creating great characters whose experiences will stay with me.

Insatiable by Meg Cabot

As the summer has now started, three of the five books on my Books of Summer post have been released. First up for review is Insatiable.

From Goodreads.com

Insatiable Book CoverSick of vampires? So is Meena Harper.But her boss is making her write about them anyway, even though Meena doesn’t believe in them.

Not that Meena isn’t familiar with the supernatural. See, Meena Harper knows how you’re going to die (not that you’re going to believe her; no one ever does).

But not even Meena’s precognition can prepare her for what happens when she meets—then makes the mistake of falling in love with—Lucien Antonescu, a modern-day prince with a bit of a dark side . . . a dark side a lot of people, like an ancient society of vampire-hunters, would prefer to see him dead for.

The problem is, he already is dead. Maybe that’s why he’s the first guy Meena’s ever met that she could see herself having a future with. See, while Meena’s always been able to see everyone else’s future, she’s never been able look into her own.

And while Lucien seems like everything Meena has ever dreamed of in a boyfriend, he might turn out to be more like a nightmare.

Now might be a good time for Meena to start learning to predict her own future . . .

If she even has one.

It took me no time at all to reach 48 books read this year. Getting to 49 has proved to be tricky. Despite the fact I have a great pile of new books sitting next to my bed, none of them have really grabbed my attention. Once I purchased Insatiable the opposite was true. I could not wait for some free time to start reading! I picked up the book and was immediately hooked. I devoured the book in a day.

As a person who is over the whole “Vampire” craze, I was interested to read Meg Cabot’s take on the subject. In the first half of the book she seemed to discuss many of the issues that I have with the vampire novels. I was excited by this because I thought it meant she would avoid these pitfalls. However as the book progressed, the opposite occurred. Does the main character find out that her boyfriend is a vampire yet still need to be with him? Yes! Is the main character just an “ordinary everyday woman” yet the two main men fall in love with her? Yup! Do these two men have a need to kill each other? Of course! These are just a few of the things Cabot had spent the first 100 pages complaining about, and here she was committing the same sins.

Despite the fact that the author hit so many of these plot pitfalls that I despise, I still ended up enjoying the book; perhaps it was due to the great overall plot. Cabot’s great storytelling ability may have won me over. The interesting characters may have been the factor that added to my enjoyment. Of course it was probably all of these great things combined that led to a tale I found interesting and engaging, despite the few issues I had with the story.

Review: While I was hesitant to read another vampire drama, my love for Meg Cabot’s work made me pick up this book. Once I started the novel I could not put it down. Although I did roll my eyes at some of the plot points, I found the completed product to be a great read.

Hollywood Is like High School with Money by Zoey Dean

Next up is a book that helps me cross off a book for the 2010 Chick Lit Challenge.

From Amazon.com

Hollywood Is High School With MoneyDean delivers another pop artifact in her latest riff on the Gossip Girl generation, this time dressing up the goings-on with a very Devil Wears Prada vibe. Landing a job as second assistant to Iris Whitaker, a Metronome Studios hotshot, sounds like a dream come true for Ohio native Taylor Henning, who naturally wants to make it big in Hollywood. But this fish out of water needs to learn quickly how to swim with the sharks, as Iris’s first assistant, Kylie Arthur, would prefer she drowns. Thankfully, a fairy godmother appears in the fierce form of Quinn, Iris’s 16-year-old daughter, who suggests Taylor follow her surefire high school rules: fake it till you make it; speak up in class; make one cool friend; and realize lunch is a battleground. But there are unforeseen consequences for Taylor, who remembers some age-old advice just in time. It’s a slick little novel: catty, glitzy and just mean enough.

I discovered Zoey Dean while browsing the book section at Target. I noticed her A-list series in the store and purchased the first story. Over the next few years, I read many of the books in the series. I was excited to find out that Dean had published a non-YA novel, How to Teach Filthy Rich Girls, which I read and enjoyed.

I kept purchasing new works by Dean because I found each new story entertaining and original. The plot of each book was unexpected and enjoyable. As a result, I was excited to see that Dean had published a second novel, Hollywood Is like High School with Money. I expected the same great story telling in this latest release, however I was largely disappointed.

The main problem with this story was that I felt as if I had read it before. The story line was largely predictable with its “20-something relocating from Middle America to a big city” tale. Taylor, the main character, hits a rough time at first, but starts to be able to maneuver the difficult world of working with celebrities. With the help of a surprising ally, she falls into the classic pitfall of becoming overconfident, which leads to her hitting a road block. In the end her ability to stick with it leads to a happy ending.

There was one plot-line in the story that I did find original. This was the fact that Taylor’s ally was her boss’s 16-year-old daughter Quinn. While this had the opportunity to make the story more creative, it just ended up not being believable. The fact that such an integral part of the story didn’t feel real dampened my enjoyment of the story.

Review: The combination of predictable plot and forgettable characters led to a book that was just OK. This book would be a good vacation or beach read: entertaining but not really memorable.