Review: Time of my Life

My friend met me for lunch in NYC last week, as soon as we sat down she started telling me about an amazing book. She was pumped! She went on to tell me it’s about a woman who seems to be living the perfect life but is caught wondering about the ‘what if’s’ in life. Did she marry the right man, how would her life be different if she made different decisions. To top it off her mother abandoned the family when she was young so she’s dealing with some serious emotional baggage.

From author’s website: I was born in the '70s at 3:43 AM in Charlottesville, VA. After my mother assured my father that yes, he could take that business trip to Montreal because, no, there was no chance that I would be making my appearance while he was gone, out I popped. Which my parents now like to use as a frequent analogy about my general attitude and overall take on life.

Er, not the kind of biographical information you were looking for? Click here to read on…

Synopsis: Jillian Westfield has a life straight out of the women’s magazines she obsessively reads. She’s got the modern-print rugs of Metropolitan Home, the elegant meals from Gourmet, and the clutter-free closets out of Real Simple. With her investment-banker husband behind the wheel and her cherubic eighteen-month-old in the backseat, hers could be the family in the magazines’ Range Rover ads.

Yet somehow all of the how-to magazine stories in the world can’t seem to fix her faltering marriage or stop her from asking "What if?"

Then one morning Jillian wakes up seven years in the past. She’s back in her Manhattan apartment. She’s back in her fast-paced job. And she’s still with Jackson, the ex-boyfriend, and star of her what-if fantasies.

Armed with twenty-twenty hindsight, she’s free to choose all over again. She can reconnect to the mother who abandoned her, she can use ad campaigns from her future to wow her clients, and she can fix the fights that doomed her relationship with Jackson. Or can she?

Type: Fiction, 304 pages, Hardcover

Quick Take: Recommend - As my friend was describing this book we kept saying “I can relate to this book” or “I wonder if…”. We shared stories with each other, secrets, and we are bonded at a deeper level today. Time of my Life is a quick light read for such heavy topics (abandonment, revisiting life’s tough decisions and justifying the path you choose).

I will definitely read more books by the author.  It sounds like many of my blog friends/readers are reading this one now. I can’t wait to read your reviews, please let me know when you post.

Links worth clicking to:
- Allison’s Blog
- Writer unboxed

Source: Library

ANNA read-a-long: Part 1

I finished reading part 1 of Anna Karenina over the weekend.  I have read parts one and two, I had forgotten how enjoyable the second half of part 1 was to read.

Have you been reading with us? I know life gets in the way so don’t fret if you are feeling behind already.  You can always catch up, this is the beauty of an online discussion.

In my original post I mentioned we should use the Penguin discussion guides to facilitate our discussion but I have changed my mind. Last week I was searching ‘all things’ ANNA and landed on Oprah’s website which has more than anyone can read about the novel, characters, discussions etc… With so many having read Anna Karenina with Oprah it’s only fitting that we use her website for reference and to guide our discussion.

How to participate: I will summarize each section in quick form and provide some discussion questions for everyone to answer. Feel free to answer all questions, just one/two or simply leave a comment about your reading experience. I understand life can get in the way and answering all of the questions can be time consuming for some but others will thrive on answering every question. The goal of the read along is to finish the book!

Review: Tainted

Thank you TLC Book Tours for including me in the book tour for Tainted. This is a gripping story, the twists start rather quickly and keeps you engaged to the very last sentence.

From author’s website: Brooke Morgan is a Bostonian who now lives in London with her two children. Tainted is her first novel.

Synopsis: Holly Barrett first saw Jack Dane early one morning—tall, tan, and so heartbreakingly handsome he took her breath away. He also seemed like the last person to disrupt her quiet, uneventful days with her sensitive daughter, Katy. But the charming, enigmatic Englishman has blown into her small Cape Cod town like a brisk summer wind off the bay.

He sweeps Holly off her feet, and is soon touching the lives of everyone she deeply cares about. But is Jack the considerate, concerned gentleman he appears to be—or is there a very different creature lurking below the surface? Has a monster entered her life . . . and how far will Holly have to go to save the person she loves more than anyone else in the world?

Type: Fiction, 429 pages, Trade Paperback

Quick Take: This novel starts as a love story between Holly and Jack but don't let that fool you, it's filled with lies and deception. While reading this book I kept thinking it reminded me of the Julia Roberts movie, Sleeping with the Enemy – remember how creepy that movie was?

The relationship between Henry (Holly’s grandfather), Holly and her daughter Katy is sweet and loving. All of the characters in the book are of equal importance to the story which kept me invested. Jack Dane makes you feel uncomfortable from the beginning of the book. A quick read and a page turner.

Don't forget to click to TLC Book Tours to read other reviews and interviews.

Source: Review copy

Review: Come Sunday

Come Sunday will be released in paperback late summer (August 2010). If you liked Change of Altitude (written by Anita Shreve) you will enjoy this book.

From authors website: Isla Morley grew up in South Africa during apartheid, the child of a British father and fourth-generation South African mother. During the country’s State of Emergency, she graduated from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth with a degree in English Literature.

By 1994 she was one of the youngest magazine editors in South Africa, but left career, country and kin when she married an American and moved to California. For more than a decade she pursued a career in non-profit work, focusing on the needs of women and children.

She has lived in some of the most culturally diverse places of the world, including Johannesburg, London and Honolulu. Now in the Los Angeles area, she shares a home with her husband, daughter, two cats, a dog and a tortoise.

Synopsis from Publishers Weekly: In her poignant first novel, former South African magazine editor Morley explores a mother's grief. Abbe Deighton, part-time journalist and full-time wife and mother, finds herself living in Hawaii with her preacher husband, Greg, and precocious three-year-old daughter, Cleo, thousands of miles from her South African birthplace. Her flight from an abusive father and complicit mother is not accidental-her poet brother also fled to America-and when Cleo is killed in a car accident, Abbe re-examines the choices that have brought her so far from home. She and her husband become estranged as he turns to God and forgives the man who killed their daughter while Abbe descends into self-pity and anger at the unfairness of life. Their marriage suffers and Greg loses his job, forcing Abbe to turn homeward for financial help. Upon returning to South Africa, she confronts the ghosts of her family's past and the reality of her homeland's future. Morley convincingly depicts a grief-stricken woman without resorting to clich├ęs, and though she telegraphs the resolution of Abbe's plight early on, the storytelling, line by line, is rather beautiful. (June)

Type: Fiction, 336 pages, Hardcover

Quick Take: This is a beautifully written story, written with such care. Abby is a sad woman who loses her daughter in the second chapter of this novel. Paralyzed with grief, her life begins to change and depending on the ‘situation’ she may or may not care to participate – she simply can’t function. The story is written with flashbacks which help Abby discover a family secret. The book leaves you satisfied and the end to perfect for this book.

Click here to watch a brief author video, read interviews and discussion questions.

Source: Review copy

Review: Dream House

Have you read Dream House? I had been waiting to read this book for a few weeks.  I read it in just one day, while on vacation.  Thank you Valerie for a wonderful, well written story.

I have one copy of Dream House to giveaway in a book drawing.

To Enter:
- Leave a comment with your email address to enter, it’s that simple!
- Sorry....this giveaway is open to US and Canada addresses only
- The winner will be picked at random on Thursday evening, February 18th.

This book is on book tour this month with TLC Book Tours (Feb 2010).  Be sure to visit their website to read what others are saying.

About the author: Valerie Laken was born and raised in Rockford, Illinois, I majored in English and Russian at the University of Iowa, then worked and studied in Moscow, Prague, Krakow, and Madison, before moving to Ann Arbor, Michigan. There, I received an MA in Slavic Literature and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan, where I taught for several years. In 2006 I moved to Milwaukee and taught for two years as the Writer in Residence at Carthage College before joining the faculty at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee, where I teach in the Creative Writing program.

Synopsis: Dream House is a riveting debut novel that tells the story of a domestic drama that will forever change the lives of two families. One terrible night. One outraged act. What price will people pay to hold their homes and dreams together?

When Kate and Stuart Kinzler buy a run-down, historic house in Ann Arbor, Michigan, they're looking for a decent remodeling investment and a little space in which to rekindle their troubled marriage. Instead they discover that their home was the scene of a terrible crime many years ago—a revelation that tips the balance of their precarious union.

When a mysterious man begins lurking around her yard, Kate—now alone—is forced to confront her home's dangerous past. Hers is not the only life that has crumbled under this roof. But the stranger who has returned to this house—once his own childhood home—is in search of something Kate may never fully understand.

Featuring a diverse cast of characters and building to an unforgettable climax, Dream House embraces the volatile issues of race and class to chart the concentric effects of one fateful decision—a moment of rage that will echo forever within these four walls.

Type: Fiction, 336 pages, Trade paperback

Quick take: I really liked this novel. I was able to connect to the characters and loved how flawed everyone was in the book. Most of us know a family like Kate's.  It ends perfectly.  Chapter 25 was really difficult for me to read – I can’t tell you why or I will ruin the story.  If you have read the book, you will know what I’m referring to. Read it – it’s a very good story! 

Source: Review copy

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