Review: The Odds

Why I picked it: Stewart O'Nan is the one author who is recommended over and over when we talk with authors for the Manic Mommies Book Club.  I hadn't read any of his work yet but jumped at the chance with his new novel.

Synopsis: Valentine's weekend, Art and Marion Fowler flee their Cleveland suburb for Niagara Falls, desperate to recoup their losses. Jobless, with their home approaching foreclosure and their marriage on the brink of collapse, Art and Marion liquidate their savings account and book a bridal suite at the Falls' ritziest casino for a second honeymoon. While they sightsee like tourists during the day, at night they risk it all at the roulette wheel to fix their finances-and save their marriage.

A tender yet honest exploration of faith, forgiveness and last chances, The Odds is a reminder that love, like life, is always a gamble.

Type: Fiction

Quick Take: The odds of a marriage proposal being accepted: 1 in 1.001.  The odds of a U.S. citizen filing for bankruptcy: 1 in 17.  If you have already read this novel you know this is the how each chapter begins, clever.  I found myself thinking about my life and the odds that could be written to explain it.

From page one, I was able to connect to both Marion and Art.  The writing is tender and loving even though we are reading about the last days of a marriage. The weekend to Niagara Falls feels like a final gift from Marion, one last thing to do before closing this chapter and moving forward while Art hopes this weekend will solve all of their issues. He's not blind to what's going on, just hopeful.

This would make for a good book club selection, there is a lot to discuss.  I also think I have discovered a new favorite author.  Have you read any of his books?  Where should I start?

Rating: 4 stars
Soucre: NetGalley

Review: You're (not) the One

Why I picked it: I was in the mood for a light/fun chic-lit novel.

Synopsis: Venice, one of the world's most romantic cities, lives by the legend of the bridge of sighs: When a woman kisses the man of her dreams under the bridge at sunset, she will be together with him forever. So eighteen-year-old Lucy seals her fate in the blush of first love with Nate.

Yet ten years later, the pair has completely lost contact-until the day Lucy arrives at Nate's luxury Manhattan apartment with paintings he has purchased from the gallery where she is newly employed. The legend has reunited the couple, and Lucy is overjoyed-until the state of their union is misery.

Type: Fiction (chic-lit)

Quick Take: This is my kind of chic-lit.  It's smart, flirty, funny with a twist.  I was also reminded of Getting Rid of Matthew while reading this one (the books are nothing like each other, I just mean that I had a fun experience while reading the book, the author kept my interest). Lucy and Nate fall in love (while on a trip to Italy), they kiss at just the right moment, securing their love... forever.

Trip ends, flash forward ten years... they meet again.  Lucy has been waiting for Nate, Nate is married.  This is a fun story about what happens next. 

Think back to a boy you dated or had a crush on in high school.  Would you still have a crush today? Would things you adored then still be adorable today?  How far would you go to break a spell (the kiss at the perfect moment)?

Chic-lit fans: I loved this book.  All I can say is... read it.

Rating: 4 stars
Source: Review Copy (NetGalley)

Life: a week in Paris

Hello Friends,
Paris has been on my must see list for years.  Look at this view!

My husband came home from work on evening and said, "would you like to bring you Dad to Paris?"  His wife died earlier this year, then he had double knee replacement, with a long recovery.  An adventure would be good for him. 

So Paris it is!  A quick five day trip with my loving father.  We shared a room with two twin beds, walked through peaceful protests, ate crepes and explored as much as possible in five days. 

Review: The Ruins of Us

Why I picked it: I love literary fiction, it's my favorite genre. I also really enjoy novels set in the Middle East and India, the complexities of living in these countries read like another character in a novel for me.

Synopsis: An emotionally resonant story of an American expatriate who discovers that her husband, a Saudi billionaire, has taken a second bride—an emotionally turbulent revelation that blinds them both to their teenaged son's ominous first steps down the road of radicalization. A story of love and betrayal, fundamentalism, family and country in the Middle East.

Type: Fiction

Quick Take: I loved the book and since I hadn't read anything worthy of 5 stars in months... I'm happy to say the drought is over!

The synopsis doesn't due justice for this book.  It's a complicated tale of Rosalie's life, her decision to marry a Saudi Arabian business man, moving from the US to Saudi Arabia to raise a family in a different culture than how she was raised. 

Rosalie lives a blessed life to a billionaire, with two children and a marriage that's comfortable.  Life is no longer exciting, but this all changes the day she goes shopping for a gift for her daughter.  The store owner asks her how she enjoyed a recent gift purchased by her husband.

Told from different perspectives, the story unfolds letting the reader learn more about the culture, social issues, beliefs and the struggle to find balance/peace.

I don't want to share too much of the plot but I would love to read this for book club and discuss it.  If only I could pick every book we read!

Rating: 5 stars
Country: Saudi Arabia
Source: NetGalley

Paris!

Just a quick post today.. Well it's almost midnight for me since I'm in France!

We are having a wonderful time and in Mari fashion... I have us on the move. We have climbed and visited monuments, toured the Louvre and treated ourselves to crepes.

Please leave a comment if you have been to Paris and have any 'must see' places/restaurants for us to visit.

Do you have any exciting plans this weekend? Tomorrow morning I have a long run planned, which includes running around the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and Notre Dame. Then a day at Versailles.

I will be back next Tuesday with a post about my trip. There are some interesting things to share!

Review: The Language of Flowers

Why I picked it: After reading so many wonderful reviews, I just had to read it. 

Have you watched the book trailer for this novel? I watched it before reading the book, which made me want to read it even more! What is it like to try to love, if you've never been loved yourself? This is the question the author tries to answer.

Synopsis: The Victorian language of flowers was used to convey romantic expressions: honeysuckle for devotion, asters for patience, and red roses for love. But for Victoria Jones, it’s been more useful in communicating grief, mistrust, and solitude. After a childhood spent in the foster-care system, she is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings.

Now eighteen and emancipated from the system, Victoria has nowhere to go and sleeps in a public park, where she plants a small garden of her own. Soon a local florist discovers her talents, and Victoria realizes she has a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But a mysterious vendor at the flower market has her questioning what’s been missing in her life, and when she’s forced to confront a painful secret from her past, she must decide whether it’s worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness.

Type: Fiction

Quick Take: I have read so many great review for this book... I enjoyed it but it did have it's slow moments. I listened to this one and am left wondering if I would have the same reaction if I read it.

That said, it's a lovely story that leaves the reader both comforted and restless at the conclusion of the book.  It wraps up neatly at the end, something I wish didn't happen even though Victoria deserves this ending.

I thought it might be fun to answer a few of the discussion questions from the back of the book, if you have read this one... feel free to share your opinions.  I didn't spoil anything with my answers (if you haven't read it yet).

Three discussion questions from the back of the book:

What potential do Elizabeth, Renata, and Grant see in Victoria that she has a hard time seeing in herself? Victoria is extremely hard on herself, reading this book I often felt she didn't feel she deserved to be loved or part of a family.  The walls were up.
 
At one point her social worker has Victoria move into an apartment, with rules and a timeline to accomplish a few things.  Victoria struggles in this situation.  It was an emotional part of the story.
 
Life begins to have a purpose when Renata asks for help at the flower market. This gives Victoria an opportunity to make a little money... and be surrounded by a world of flowers which is comforting to her.
 
Elizabeth, Renata and Grant see a broken person who needs to be loved and is gifted with flowers. Seeing how she cares for them tells the true story.  She is a woman capable of love and generosity.
 
One of the major themes in The Language of Flowers is forgiveness and second chances – do you think Victoria deserves one after the things she did (both as a child and as an adult)? Almost everyone deserves a second chance, if they own up to mistakes and acknowledge/ask for forgiveness. Easier said than done, right?
 
Victoria is broken but on her way to becoming a strong woman.  I wonder what her life is like ten years in the future.
 
At the end of the novel, Victoria learns that moss grows without roots. What does this mean, and why is it such a revelation for her? This metaphor is important.  Victoria may not have a conventional family but she has a network of people who want to love her, support her and be with her.  Her revelation... once she realizes she is loved and decides to be loved, she finds peace in knowing that she has a family. 
 
Family are the people who actively participate in your life, support you, are there for you in good times and bad times.  Sharing a blood line isn't the only factor and sometimes this isn't even relevant.
 
Rating: 4 stars
Source: Library (audio)

Review: Carrie goes Off the Map

Why I picked it: I requested this one from NetGalley after seeing Staci mention it on her blog.  Click here to read her review.

Synopsis: Carrie Brownhill, recently dumped by her fiance, is determined to get away from men forever. Yet she finds herself stuck in a VW camper van careening through the English countryside with the intriguing Matt Landor, MD, and he seems to be just what the doctor ordered for a broken heart...

Type: Fiction

Quick Take: Where to start.... I didn't love this one but that doesn't mean you won't enjoy it. 

Let me explain, I don't read much of this genre and yet I decided to read two books back to back.  This was the second one.  I loved the first read which probably lifted my expectations. 

This novels starts with a bang, I was hooked.  But by the time the RV trip happens... I found myself not caring much.

Rating: 3/5 stars
Source: NetGalley

Review: After the Party

Why I picked it: I bought this novel, to read while traveling for work after reading Shellyrae's review (on Book'd Out).

I love dark/twisty novels that could happen.

Synopsis: Eleven years ago, Jem and Ralph fell deeply in love. They thought it would be forever, that they’d found their happy ending. As everyone agreed, they were the perfect couple. Then two became four, and an apartment became a house. Romantic nights out became sleepless nights in. And they soon found that life wasn’t quite so simple anymore. But through it all, Jem and Ralph still loved each other. Of course they did.

Now Jem is back at work part-time as a talent agent. Ralph, a successful painter, is struggling to come up with new, hopefully groundbreaking, work for his upcoming show. But the unimaginable has happened. Two people who were so right together are starting to drift apart And in the chaos of family life, Jem feels like she’s losing herself, while Ralph, stuck on the sidelines, feels like he’s lost his muse altogether. Something has to change. As they try to find a way back to each other, back to what they once had, they both become momentarily distracted—but maybe it’s not too late to recapture happily ever after…

Type: Fiction

Quick Take: I really enjoyed this book, loved the writing style and the vocabulary was brilliant.  I haven't read Ralph's Party but didn't feel this was necessary, I do however plan to read it... I adored the author's writing and hope to read more of it with Ralph's Party.

Back to After the Party... as I read this novel it felt like I was invading Jem and Ralph personal space at times, kudos to the author for making me feel this way!  Relationships, work, children, neglect, acceptance, love... it's all in this novel.

If you read/enjoyed Little Children you will like this novel (less the creepy felon guy). I thought it might be fun to answer a few of the discussion questions from the back of the book, if you have read this one... feel free to share your opinions.

Three discussion questions from the back of the book:  

Why do you think Jem so easily agreed to Ralph's trip to California when she was already feeling overwhelmed? Jem's answer is more complicated than this but to summarize it... I felt that Jem was so exhausted (both physically and emotionally) that she didn't have the energy to say otherwise. Having Ralph leave for a week gave her time to herself... a vacation for herself (Ralph didn't help much and having him gone was a relief at times).

On the topic of infidelity, what did you think about Jem inviting Joel over for curry and beer on her last "single" evening before Ralph's return? Both Ralph and Jem have encounters while Ralph is visiting a friend but I was actually more sympathetic to Jem's situation... that doesn't mean I felt her behavior was acceptable.  They both behaved poorly, longing for acceptance and looking to fill a void.

Jem and Joel's friendship was interesting and well explored.  Joel's reactions were real, I liked how he was developed.

Jem and Ralph don't see eye to eye when Jem finds out she's pregnant. At first, Ralph tells Jem that it's her decision and he'll go with what she wants to do. Then he has a change of heart. Imagine you're a close friend of the couple. What would you advise?  Reading this question should tell you that this book covers some tough topics.  Jem is pregnant with her third child and contemplates having an abortion.  I don't want to talk about what happens just in case you want to read this book, but I will say it tugs at your heart while reading the book.

Rating: 4 stars
Source: Personal Copy (Nook)

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