Review: MRS. EVERYTHING by Jennifer Weiner

Review:  MRS. EVERYTHING by Jennifer WeinerMrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner
four-half-stars
Published by Atria Books on June 11, 2019
Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Women's Fiction
Pages: 480
Source: Netgalley
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FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 

 

 

MRS. EVERYTHING Review

I’ve always considered Jennifer Weiner to be the unofficial queen of “Chick Lit,” so when I requested her latest novel, Mrs. Everything, I was expecting a fun, sexy read. What I got, however, was so much more than I anticipated, and I mean that in the best possible way.  I honestly cannot remember the last time a book resonated with me as much as Mrs. Everything did.  It packs an emotional punch on many levels – it made me smile at times, but it also made me shed a few tears, and sometimes it even just made me angry and frustrated.  Why?  Because it accurately, vividly, and sometimes painfully explores how hard it can be to grow up as a woman, especially during the time period when the book is set.  The whole time you’re trying to figure out who you are and what your place in the world is, someone is looking over your shoulder trying to pigeon-hole you into some pre-determined notion of what makes an ideal woman, telling you your life will be best if you just do what you’re “supposed” to do.

Mrs. Everything captured my attention right away because it’s actually more of a historical fiction in that it follows two sisters, Jo and Bethie, from their childhood in the 1950’s through the sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll era of the 60’s and 70’s, all the way up to their senior years, including Hillary Clinton’s historic run for the U.S. Presidency in 2016.  Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres and Weiner does an incredible job of capturing each decade in terms of fashion, hair, pop culture references, etc. I truly felt transported back in time.

Weiner also captured my heart with Jo and Bethie.  When we first meet Jo as a child in the 1950’s, she’s a rebellious tomboy who would much rather wear jeans and read books than do anything her mother considers “ladylike.”  In contrast, Bethie is Mommy’s little princess, the epitome of beauty and femininity.  In their mom’s eyes, Bethie is doing everything just right in order to secure herself a husband who will take care of her when she’s an adult, while who knows what will happen to Jo since she’s clearly on the “wrong” path.  At first Jo had the bulk of my sympathy because her mother was so awful to her, always making her feel like she’s a disappointment, but later, when Bethie’s life doesn’t go as expected and her journey takes a darker turn, she earned my sympathy as well.

In following Jo and Bethie from childhood up into their senior years, Weiner fully explores what it was like to be a woman back in the latter 20th century all the way up to what it’s like now.  She takes us through the highs and lows, the successes and the failures, and most especially, how hard it can be to stand up and be brave when the easier path is often to let fear win out.  Even though the story takes a few dark turns through addiction and abuse, it’s ultimately a very uplifting story that shows how much has changed over time and proves women can be whoever they want to be: sisters, mothers, daughters, aunts, wives, friends, lovers, teachers, role models, and yes, even Presidential candidates (and hopefully Presidents someday!).

I feel like I just don’t have the words to convey just how powerful and moving a read this is, so I’m just going to close by saying this is one of my favorite reads of the year so far and that I highly recommend it to everyone!

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

From Jennifer Weiner, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Who Do You Love and In Her Shoes, comes a smart, thoughtful, and timely exploration of two sisters’ lives from the 1950s to the present as they struggle to find their places—and be true to themselves—in a rapidly evolving world. Mrs. Everything is an ambitious, richly textured journey through history—and herstory—as these two sisters navigate a changing America over the course of their lives.

Do we change or does the world change us?

Jo and Bethie Kaufman were born into a world full of promise.

Growing up in 1950s Detroit, they live in a perfect “Dick and Jane” house, where their roles in the family are clearly defined. Jo is the tomboy, the bookish rebel with a passion to make the world more fair; Bethie is the pretty, feminine good girl, a would-be star who enjoys the power her beauty confers and dreams of a traditional life.

But the truth ends up looking different from what the girls imagined. Jo and Bethie survive traumas and tragedies. As their lives unfold against the background of free love and Vietnam, Woodstock and women’s lib, Bethie becomes an adventure-loving wild child who dives headlong into the counterculture and is up for anything (except settling down). Meanwhile, Jo becomes a proper young mother in Connecticut, a witness to the changing world instead of a participant. Neither woman inhabits the world she dreams of, nor has a life that feels authentic or brings her joy. Is it too late for the women to finally stake a claim on happily ever after?

In her most ambitious novel yet, Jennifer Weiner tells a story of two sisters who, with their different dreams and different paths, offer answers to the question: How should a woman be in the world?

four-half-stars

About Jennifer Weiner

Jennifer Weiner is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of sixteen books, including Good in Bed, In Her Shoes, and, coming this June, Mrs. Everything. A graduate of Princeton University and contributor to the New York Times Opinion section, she lives with her family in Philadelphia. Visit her online at JenniferWeiner.com.

Review: THE FRIENDS WE KEEP by Jane Green

Review:  THE FRIENDS WE KEEP by Jane GreenThe Friends We Keep by Jane Green
Also by this author: The Sunshine Sisters
four-stars
Published by Berkley Books on June 4, 2019
Genres: Fiction
Pages: 384
Source: Netgalley
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FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 
 
 
 
 
 

THE FRIENDS WE KEEP Review

Jane Green’s latest novel The Friends We Keep is a beautiful and moving story about the ups and downs as we move through life and the friends we make while on the journey.  It follows Evvie, Maggie, and Topher, who met during their first year of college and became fast friends.  The story tracks each of them through life, from those carefree college years where the three of them lived together like one big happy family to those years after college when life just got in the way and they drifted apart.  The Friends We Keep really resonated with me because of its central themes about friendship – first, the idea that no matter how far friends drift apart, they always find their way back to each other, and second, a true friend will always find a way to forgive you, even if you make a seemingly unforgiveable mistake.

All three of the main characters drew me in right away because their lives were just so messy and complicated.  While their career paths (Evvie becomes a model and Topher becomes an actor) aren’t necessarily all that easy to relate to, the highs and lows they experience, the bad choices they sometimes make along the way, and the regrets that follow are all too relatable.  Green writes each of their stories with an authenticity that I think will resonate with many readers, especially those with similar lifelong friendships. As I was reading about Evvie, Topher, and Maggie, I was also constantly thinking about my own best friends and how much I treasure them.

I don’t want to give away anything about the overall plot of the story or the character’s individual journeys – you can read the synopsis for more details – but I did want to talk about one final theme that resonated with me.  Even though The Friends We Keep is a beautiful story about friendship, it does have its share of dark moments as the characters experience some of life’s lows and disappointments.  The message Jane Green so wonderfully conveys though is that it’s never too late for a second chance at happiness or to follow a new dream if your original dream doesn’t pan out.  Maybe it’s because of my age and where I am in life, but that message really hit home for me as I was reading.

I just started reading Jane Green’s novels last year but she is fast becoming a favorite of mine because her stories about family and friendships are so heartfelt and relatable.  If you’re in the mood for a story about life and the true meaning of friendship, give The Friends We Keep a try.

 

 

 

 

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

The Friends We Keep is the warm and wise new novel from Jane Green, New York Times bestselling author of The Sunshine Sisters and The Beach House.

Evvie, Maggie, and Topher have known each other since university. Their friendship was something they swore would last forever. Now years have passed, the friends have drifted apart, and none of them ever found the lives they wanted – the lives they dreamed of when they were young and everything seemed possible.

Evvie starved herself to become a supermodel but derailed her career by sleeping with a married man.

Maggie married Ben, the boy she fell in love with at university, never imagining the heartbreak his drinking would cause.

Topher became a successful actor but the shame of a childhood secret shut him off from real intimacy.

By their thirtieth reunion, these old friends have lost touch with each other and with the people they dreamed of becoming. Together again, they have a second chance at happiness… until a dark secret is revealed that changes everything.

The Friends We Keep is about how despite disappointments we’ve had or mistakes we’ve made, it’s never too late to find a place to call home.

four-stars

About Jane Green

Jane Green is the author of eighteen novels, of which seventeen are New York Times Bestsellers, including her latest, Falling Previous novels have included The Beach House, Second Chance, Jemima J, and Tempting Fate.  She will be debuting her cookbook, Good Taste, on October 4th.

She is published in over 25 languages, and has over ten million books in print worldwide. She joined the ABC News team to write their first enhanced digital book— about the history of Royal marriages, then joined ABC News as a live correspondent covering Prince William’s wedding to Kate Middleton.  A former journalist in the UK, she has had her own radio show on BBC Radio London, and is a regular contributor on radio and TV, including as well as regularly appearing on television shows including Good Morning America, The Martha Stewart show, and The Today Show.

Together with writing books and blogs, she contributes to various publications, both online and print, including anthologies and novellas, and features for The Huffington Post, The Sunday Times, Cosmopolitan and Self. She has taught at writers conferences, and does regular keynote speaking, and has a weekly column in The Lady magazine, England’s longest running weekly magazine.

A graduate of the French Culinary Institute in New York, Green filled two of her books, Saving Grace and Promises to Keep, with recipes culled from her own collection. She says she only cooks food that is “incredibly easy, but has to look as if you have slaved over a hot stove for hours.” This is because she has five children, and has realised that “when you have five children, nobody ever invites you anywhere.”

She lives in Westport, Connecticut with her husband and their blended family. When she is not writing, cooking, gardening, filling her house with friends and herding chickens, she is usually thanking the Lord for caffeine-filled energy drinks. A cancer survivor – she has overcome Malignant Melanoma, she also lives with Chronic Lyme Disease, and believes gratitude and focusing on the good in life is the secret to happiness.

ARC Review: ONE SUMMER IN PARIS by Sarah Morgan

ARC Review:  ONE SUMMER IN PARIS by Sarah MorganOne Summer in Paris by Sarah Morgan
Also by this author: The Christmas Sisters
four-half-stars
Published by Hqn on April 9, 2019
Genres: Fiction, Romance
Pages: 384
Source: Netgalley
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 
 
 
 
 
 

ONE SUMMER IN PARIS Review:

 

As soon as I saw the title of Sarah Morgan’s latest book, One Summer in Paris, I hit the request button on Netgalley.  Paris is one of my favorite cities in the world, and I’ve wanted to go back there ever since I first visited several years ago.  I read Sarah Morgan’s The Christmas Sisters this past winter and based on the way she transported me to the Scottish Highlands in that book, I knew she was the perfect choice to take me back to Paris.  Once I actually stopped flailing about the book being set in Paris and read the synopsis, I knew I was going to love it.

One Summer in Paris follows two women, 47 year old Grace and 18 year old Audrey, both of whom are in Paris for the summer.  Grace is supposed to be in Paris for a month with her husband, David, to celebrate their 25th anniversary.  However, when Grace presents David with the tickets for the Paris trip, David informs her that he is having an affair and wants a divorce.  Grace is devastated but decides to pluck up her courage and go to Paris alone.  Audrey is also dealing with some issues at her home in London that have left her feeling unloved and just wanting to get away and taste freedom for a while.  She decides that she needs an adventure, and even though she doesn’t speak the language, she boldly decides that she wants to live and work in Paris for the summer.   When Grace and Audrey unexpectedly cross paths in Paris, they form an immediate and unlikely friendship that will change both of their lives.

The friendship between Grace and Audrey was what really made this book such a winner for me.  Their personalities in many ways are polar opposites, with Audrey being the bold and daring one, while Grace is overly cautious and has lived an almost sheltered life.  I really loved how even though Grace was 47 and Audrey was only 18, Audrey teaches Grace just as many life lessons as Grace teachers her, and it was just so heartwarming to watch them support each other.  Audrey, who is a whiz with hair, makeup, and fashion, helps Grace really come out of her shell and enjoy her time in Paris to the fullest, while Grace, who is a language teacher, helps Audrey start to learn French so that she can more independently live and work in the city.  Grace becomes the mother figure Audrey has never really had, and Audrey becomes the BFF that Grace has never had.

You knew Paris was going to make my list of highlights, right? Morgan describes the “City of Lights” perfectly, capturing everything about the city that makes it such a magical and romantic destination for so many.  Between her lush descriptions of baguettes, croissants, delicious cheeses, and wine, and picnics by the Seine River, and her picture-perfect portrayal of iconic French landmarks and gently curving side streets that lead to charming bookstores and bistros, Morgan will make you feel like you are right in the heart of Paris.

I know those who follow my blog will be surprised to see romance in my highlights section, but Morgan has woven two of my favorite kinds of romance into this story and really did both of them very well.  I don’t want to give away any spoilers, so I’m just going to say First Love and Second Chance Romance, and leave it at that. 😊

I love a story that is filled with complicated relationships and this book is chock full of them.  There are complicated family relationships, as well as complicated romantic relationships.  This is an uplifting and heartwarming story overall, but it also has its fair share of drama because of these relationships, which I think help ground the story and keep it from becoming saccharine sweet. Although, that said, I will say that I cried happy tears more than once as I got closer and closer to the end.

My only real complaint about One Summer in Paris was that a couple of plot points were a little predictable.  They took the story in ways I wanted it to go, however, so they didn’t really bother me too much.

I think One Summer in Paris is the perfect read for anyone who enjoys an engaging story about complicated family relationships, the importance of friendship, love, and above all else, a story about taking chances and finding oneself. It’s light enough to be a perfect summer/beach read, but it still has plenty of weight to it because of what both women are going through.

 

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

“Morgan is a masterful storyteller, and readers will be fully immersed in this realistic but magical summer in Paris. Packed full of love, loss, heartbreak, and hope, this may just be Morgan’s best book yet. For fans of Jojo Moyes, Taylor Jenkins Reid, and Stacey Ballis” -Booklist Review on One Summer in Paris.

USA TODAY bestselling author Sarah Morgan returns with this heartwarming novel about the power of friendship, love and what happens when an ending is just the beginning…

To celebrate their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, Grace has planned the surprise of a lifetime for her husband—a romantic getaway to Paris. But she never expected he’d have a surprise of his own: he wants a divorce. Reeling from the shock but refusing to be broken, a devastated Grace makes the bold decision to go to Paris alone.

Audrey, a young woman from London, has left behind a heartache of her own when she arrives in Paris. A job in a bookshop is her ticket to freedom, but with no money and no knowledge of the French language, suddenly a summer spent wandering the cobbled streets alone seems much more likely…until she meets Grace, and everything changes.

Grace can’t believe how daring Audrey is. Audrey can’t believe how cautious newly single Grace is. Living in neighboring apartments above the bookshop, this unlikely pair offer each other just what they’ve both been missing. They came to Paris to find themselves, but finding this unbreakable friendship might be the best thing that’s ever happened to them…

 

four-half-stars

About Sarah Morgan

USA Today and Sunday Times bestselling author Sarah Morgan writes romance and contemporary women’s fiction and her trademark humour and sensuality have gained her fans across the globe. She is a 3 time winner of the prestigious RITA® Award from the Romance Writers of America and has been nominated five times. Sarah lives near London, England, and when she isn’t reading or writing she loves being outdoors.

Review: ALL WE EVER WANTED by Emily Giffin

Review:  ALL WE EVER WANTED by Emily GiffinAll We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin
four-stars
Published by Ballantine Books on June 26, 2018
Genres: Women's Fiction, Fiction
Pages: 400
Source: Netgalley
Buy on Amazon
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FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

MY REVIEW:

Emily Giffin’s new novel All We Ever Wanted is an emotionally charged drama that deals with the wide ranging fallout from a party gone wrong.  The story follows Lyla Volpe, a young woman, who through hard work and good grades, has earned herself a spot at the prestigious Windsor Academy.  Because her family is not wealthy like most of the other families who have kids there, Lyla often feels she doesn’t quite fit in  Overall, she’s happy but does wish that she fit in better socially with her classmates. When the opportunity to attend a big party where the boy she has a crush on is sure to be, Lyla is immediately on board.  Things go south at the party though, when after having too much to drink, Lyla passes out on someone’s bed and a sexually explicit photo is taken of her, and along with a completely racist caption, is passed around on social media.

Finch Browning, who is actually the boy Lyla had a crush on, is the one who is accused of taking the photo, putting the racist caption on it, and sharing it with his friends.  When Finch’s parents find out, they are understandably upset, although for very different reasons.  Finch’s dad is worried that Finch’s acceptance to Princeton will be revoked if this incident goes on his school record, while Finch’s mother is appalled because what does it say about her as a parent if Finch really did do this and has so little respect for women.  Add Lyla’s father, Tom, into the mix, who would probably really just like to murder Finch for messing with his little girl, or at minimum, get him kicked out of school, and you have a recipe for contentious encounters and a highly emotional and dramatic read.

What I enjoyed most about All We Ever Wanted is how realistic and relatable the overall plot of the story is.  In this day and age of social media obsession, what happens to Lyla is pretty much every parent’s nightmare, whether you’re the parent of the girl in the photo or the parent of the boy who is accused of taking the photo and sharing it with all of his buddies.  I could easily see what happened with these students happening at pretty much any party in any community.

Not only was the situation itself realistically portrayed and relatable, but the characters were drawn equally realistically as well, especially Tom and Nina.  As a parent myself, I thought that every parent involved reacted as I expected they would.  Lyla’s father wants to protect his daughter at all costs and make those responsible for humiliating her pay, while Finch’s mother, although she of course loves her son and wants to protect him, knows that he also needs to face the consequences for his actions.  The reactions were dramatic and often messy, but they manage to be that way without falling into the melodramatic, soap opera category, mainly because it was just so easy to understand where each of them were coming from with their reactions. I felt the same about Lyla, who is torn between wanting to make someone pay and wanting to just forget that it even happened and move on with her life.

I also found All We Ever Wanted to be a powerful read in the sense that in addition to exploring all of the fallout from the actual incident at the party, it also exposes and explores a lot of other important and sometimes ugly issues: racism and prejudice, slut shaming and victim blaming, white privilege, and elitism. It even exposes those ugly people that we all know who thrive on other people’s problems because those problems make for good gossip.

Although I think the story would have been engaging no matter how it was presented to the reader, I really liked that Giffin has the story unfold from the perspective of three narrators: Lyla; her father, Tom; and Finch’s mom, Nina.  I felt like this approach added so many layers to the story that we might otherwise not have gotten if the story had come from – say, Finch—instead.  This way, we don’t hear from Finch so whether or not he actually did take the photo remains a mystery for much of the book. Instead, however, we are presented with some backstory of each of the other main characters, which further fleshes out their motivations for why they act the way they do upon learning about the photo incident.  The incident dredges up a lot of painful experiences from the past and causes both Nina and Tom to really start to question themselves, past choices they’ve made, and whether the lives they are currently living are even what they want anymore.  So, in this sense, the story is so much more than just the incident at the party and whether or not someone is going to be punished for it.

My only dislike, and I’m pretty sure we’re meant to dislike him, is Finch’s father.  He was arrogant, obnoxious, and although I did appreciate that he didn’t want to see his son’s future destroyed by a single lapse in judgment, I still found it appalling that he thought he could just throw money at a problem and make it go away.  He had no interest whatsoever in imposing any kind of real punishment on his son to teach him a lesson and he had equally no concern for Lyla who was the real victim in the whole incident.  He was just a horrible person and I felt my blood pressure rise every time he appeared in the book.

This was my first time reading one of Emily Giffin’s novels and I have to say it was just overall a very enjoyable read.  Giffin’s effortless writing style, along with such relatable characters and scenarios, made me breeze right through the story eager to find out how all of the characters would fare in the end.  I look forward to going back and trying some of Giffin’s earlier novels now that I’ve gotten my first taste of them.

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

In the riveting new novel from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of First Comes Love and Something Borrowed, three very different people must choose between their family and their values.

Nina Browning is living the good life after marrying into Nashville’s elite. More recently, her husband made a fortune selling his tech business, and their adored son has been accepted to Princeton. Yet sometimes the middle-class small-town girl in Nina wonders if she’s strayed from the person she once was.

Tom Volpe is a single dad working multiple jobs while struggling to raise his headstrong daughter, Lyla. His road has been lonely, long, and hard, but he finally starts to relax after Lyla earns a scholarship to Windsor Academy, Nashville’s most prestigious private school.

Amid so much wealth and privilege, Lyla doesn’t always fit in—and her overprotective father doesn’t help—but in most ways, she’s a typical teenage girl, happy and thriving.

Then, one photograph, snapped in a drunken moment at a party, changes everything. As the image spreads like wildfire, the Windsor community is instantly polarized, buzzing with controversy and assigning blame.

At the heart of the lies and scandal, Tom, Nina, and Lyla are forced together—all questioning their closest relationships, asking themselves who they really are, and searching for the courage to live a life of true meaning.

four-stars

About Emily Giffin

Emily Giffin, a Chicago native, graduated summa cum laude from Wake Forest University and the University of Virginia School of Law. After law school, she moved to Manhattan and practiced litigation at a large firm for several years while she paid back her school loans, wrote a novel in her very limited spare time, and dreamed of becoming a writer.

Despite the rejection of her first manuscript, Giffin persisted, retiring from the legal profession and moving to London to pursue her dreams full time. It was there that she began writing Something Borrowed (2004), a story of a young woman who, upon turning thirty, finally learned to take a risk and follow her heart. One year later, Giffin’s own gamble paid off, as she completed her manuscript, landed an agent and signed a two-book deal on both sides of the Atlantic. The following summer, Something Borrowed, hailed as a “heartbreakingly honest debut” with “dead-on dialogue, real-life complexity and genuine warmth,” became a surprise sensation, and Giffin vowed never to practice law again.

Dubbed a “modern day Jane Austen” (Vanity Fair) and a “dependably down-to-earth storyteller” (New York Times), Giffin has since penned six more New York Times bestsellers, Something Blue (2005), Baby Proof (2006), Love the One You’re With (2008), Heart of the Matter (2010), Where We Belong (2012), The One & Only (2014) and First Comes Love (2016). Her eight novels, all filled with endearingly flawed characters and emotional complexity, have resonated deeply with both critics and readers around the world, achieving bestseller status in a number of countries, including the United States (#1), Canada (#1), United Kingdom, France, Brazil and Poland (#1). The books have been translated into thirty-one languages, with over eleven million copies sold worldwide. In addition, five of her novels have been optioned for the big screen and are in various stages of development. The first, Something Borrowed, hit theaters in May 2011, starring Kate Hudson, Ginnifer Goodwin and John Krasinski.

Giffin now resides with her husband and three young children in Atlanta. Her ninth novel, All We Ever Wanted, will be released on June 26, 2018.