The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin – Book Review

The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin
Published by St. Martin’s Griffin, an imprint of Macmillan

Cora Cash is just about as close to royalty as an American can get. Her family isn’t old money, but they’re wealthy enough to be the talk of the town – and own a mansion in Newport that makes the Vanderbilt estate look miniscule. Even so, Cora’s mother is always looking for the next step to improve her family’s standing, and she’s fairly sure she has found it in Europe: a title. Rich American girls are all the rage among Europe’s cash-strapped gentry, to the point where there is actually a publication in the States listing those titled men looking hardest for an heiress. After all, who but a duke could be worthy of the Cash family’s only child? Luckily for Mrs. Cash’s plans, the Duke of Wareham happens upon Cora when she is injured in the woods while riding, and before long the two are engaged. It isn’t long, though, until Cora discovers that she is not quite as prepared for this life as she believes herself to be.

Daisy Goodwin’s American Heiress is a fun and engaging read. Nobody is particularly likable – the closest is Cora’s maid Bertha, Cora herself is quite spoiled – but Goodwin still manages to evoke some empathy for those characters who find themselves in situations they don’t entirely understand. The time period was believable, as was the fairly dramatic plot, both of which contributed to the cotton candy can’t-stop-reading aspect. At close to 500 pages, though, it was just too long. Considering it was much more plot-driven than character-driven, not enough happened to justify that length of book. Quite a bit could have been cut down to create a tighter story.

American Heiress is a flawed but interesting novel. Certainly the concept of Gilded Age American heiresses infusing a generation of British nobility with money is a fascinating – and true – one.

The American Heiress is the SheKnows Book Club pick for May.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Publisher, for the SheKnows Book Club.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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Save Me by Lisa Scottoline – Audiobook Review

Save Me by Lisa Scottoline, narrated by Cynthia Nixon
Published in audio by Macmillan Audio, published in print by St. Martin’s Griffin, both imprints of Macmillan

Synopsis:

In an attempt to protect her bullied daughter, Rose McKenna volunteers as a school lunch mom. After witnessing an emotional attack on Melly, her shy 3rd grader, Rose is attempting to reason with Melly’s tormentors when an explosion rocks the lunch room. Suddenly  Rose must decide whether to save the three girls in front of her, or whether to go off in search of Melly, who she is reasonably sure is hiding in the handicapped bathroom adjacent to the kitchen, where the explosion seems to have come from. Rose’s decision at this crucial point first finds her hailed as a hero, but soon reports come in of another injury, and Rose becomes the most demonized woman in her small town. How can she balance assuaging her guilt, protecting her family, and avoiding being sued?

Thoughts on the story:

Scottoline doesn’t pull any punches with Save Me. The story opens with Rose as lunch mom, and the ensuing explosion. The horror of the fire and of attempting to rescue your child are immediate. It is quite an opening, throwing the reader straight into the midst of Rose’s now-chaotic life. It is really pretty brutal for awhile, Rose is continually beaten down by the feeling that she could and should have done more, she is mobbed by reporters, and often talked down to by her own husband. In some ways. the turn Save Me  eventually takes is a relief, a break from the gut-wrenching guilt, pain, and misery that has come to characterize Rose’s life. At the same time, however, the end of Save Me seems to become almost another book entirely, as Rose delves into the surprising cause of the fire.

Thoughts on the audio production:

In all honesty, I was a bit terrified at the idea of listening to Cynthia Nixon for 8 hours. Don’t get me wrong, I like her and have nothing against her voice, but I had visions (auditory hallucinations?) of not being able to hear anything but Sex and the City‘s Miranda for the entire book. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Nixon really is a capable narrator. My only real problem with her performance was her voice for Melly, which sounded masculine and a bit gravelly instead of young. The audio also highlighted for me a couple of textual annoyances that I would likely not have noticed if I had been reading the book. One was the constant mention of the klieg lights, whenever the reporters hovered around Rose, and the other was the fact that Rose seemed to be completely and annoyingly incapable of keeping her cell phone charged.

Overall:

I think many readers will find Save Me highly enjoyable in either print or audio.

Save Me is the SheKnows Book Club pick for March. If you’ve read it, join us for a discussion on Lisa Scottoline’s Facebook page from 8-9 pm Eastern on Thursday, March 29th.

 

 

Buy this book from:
Powells: Audio/Print*
Indiebound: Audio/Print*

I’m launching a brand-new meme every Friday! I encourage you to review any audiobooks you review on Fridays and include the link here. If you have reviewed an audiobook earlier in the week, please feel free to link that review as well. Thanks to Pam for creating the button.

Source: Publisher.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.
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Home Front by Kristin Hannah – Book Review

Home Front by Kristin Hannah
Published by St. Martin’s Press, an imprint of Macmillan

Things have been difficult between Michael and Joleen Zarkades since the death of Michael’s father some months ago. Joleen knows what it is like to lose her parents, even before they died when she was 17 they were essentially gone, caught up in their own world with little time or energy left for Joleen. In her strength, Joleen chose to be happy, but that exhortation does not work for Michael, and her constant platitudes after his father’s death has left him feeling disconnected from and even resentful of her. For her part, Joleen is frustrated with Michael’s apparent lack of interest in her and their daughters. Things finally come to a  head when Michael tells Joleen that he is no longer in love with her. Before the Zarkades can decide to either work things out or end their relationship, Joleen receives word that her National Guard Unit – she is a former army helicopter pilot – is shipping out to Iraq for a year-long tour of duty.

Oh, the sobbing involved in reading Home Front! Hannah has crafted a story that is rife with emotion, and some particularly painful emotion at that: a marriage on the verge of breaking up, a mother leaving her children, children confused and scared by their mother going to war, a father trying to learn how to be a true parent to his daughters, and a woman facing the uncertainty of war. Some may find this surfeit of sadness to be emotionally manipulative – and this is somewhat hard to argue, as I cried intermittently for the first half and sobbed silently for essentially the entire second half. Still, I would tend to say that this is simply a story of a troubled marriage whose crisis point comes at a particularly inopportune time, combined with the real emotions of a family sending a parent to war. Hannah brings Michael and Joleen to life to an extent that their pain is incredibly easy to empathize with, and thus very emotional for the reader. What is particularly impressive about this is the fact that Hannah has created a story in which it is equally easy to commiserate with both Joleen and Michael.

This was my first experience with Hannah and it was a good, if draining, one. This is not a book to read in public (or perhaps in front of small children, Daniel was somewhat distressed about my tears), but it is definitely a book worth reading. Recommended.

If you have read Home Front, come and join the SheKnows Book Club discussion with author Kristin Hannah on Thursday, March 1 from 8 to 11 pm Eastern/5 to 8 pm Pacific.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Publisher, for the SheKnows Book Club.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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The First Husband by Laura Dave – Book Review

The First Husband by Laura Dave
Published by Viking Adult, an imprint of Penguin

Annie Adams seems to be in a pretty good place: her job as a travel writer sends her all over the world, she has an adorable dog, and she and her live-in boyfriend Nick have been together for five years. Everything seems to be going well – until Nick tells her that they need to have a break, that he might have feelings for a girl he grew up with. After a fair amount of time wallowing in self-pity over the break-up of what she thought was a very steady relationship, Annie puts on her most magical yellow dress, and heads out on the town for a drink and meets charming, thoughtful Griffin, a chef from Massachusetts in LA temporarily. By the end of their three month whirlwind romance, Griffin is proposing and Annie is moving with him to Massachusetts as his wife. Once there, however, she wonders if her marriage is simply a rebound, and if she really belongs in this new life. And, if not, does she still belong in her old life either?

Annie Adams is an immediately relateable character. How often do we ignore the warning signs that our life is no longer what it used to be, surprised to suddenly find that everything has fallen apart? Annie’s life had been relying largely on inertia when Nick introduced his friction. How many of us, when faced with a life-wrenching change, have thrown ourselves immediately into something different, without immediate thought to whether or not it is right for us? And again, how many of us would eventually question that decision, based solely on the fact that it did come after such a drastic change? Is this real? Is it just a rebound? These are the questions that guide Annie’s life in The First Husband, and they do so in an incredibly realistic manner. Nick and Griffin were somewhat less fully fleshed out, but The First Husband takes place so much in Annie’s head, that this seemed like a reasonable choice: Annie is questioning how much she really knows either man, so why should the reader know them any better?

Dave has succeeded in writing a book that is incredibly life-like and that readers can relate to whether or not they have ever been in the exact same situation. Recommended.

Join the conversation July 14th

Laura Dave will be joining the SheKnows Book Club to discuss The First Husband on Thursday, July 14th. All are invited and welcome to participate on the SheKnows message boards.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound.*

Source: Author
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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Life After Yes by Aidan Donnelly Rowley – Book Review

Life After Yes by Aidan Donnelly Rowley
Published by Avon A, an imprint of Harper Collins

A successful young lawyer, it seems that Quinn’s life should be perfect when her handsome, loving investment banker boyfriend Sage whisks her to Paris for the weekend to propose. Shortly after she tells him ‘yes,’ however, the doubts begin with a dream in which she feels trapped and finds herself at the altar facing three grooms, including her ex-boyfriend and her trainer from the gym. Her doubts, exacerbated by her grief of losing her father in the World Trade Center during 9/11 just a few short months earlier, lead her to be nasty to Sage and drink entirely too much, not to mention flirting too much with other men. It is time for Quinn to really consider what she wants from life, and it won’t be easy.

I’m afraid you all are going to get sick of my raving about books, but here is another one that I L.O.V.E.D. loved.

Quinn’s voice was just so completely authentic that I got completely caught up in her story and finished the entire 300+ page book in one weekend day, staying up far later than I had intended because I couldn’t bear to wait to complete this journey with Quinn. Some of the things she did I very much disagreed with, but I could empathize with how she arrived at every decision. Parts of the basic storyline – girl gets engaged, has doubts, boozes it up – may make “Life After Yes” sound fluffy, but Rowley brought a great deal of depth to Quinn and her storyline. I also thought that the death of Quinn’s father in 9/11 was done very well. It brought an added layer of gravity to the story, but I never felt that Rowley was using it in a way that felt manipulative of people’s 9/11 sentiments or cheapened the event.  Instead it informed Quinn’s character and her actions in very believable ways.

I really loved this book, and very highly recommend it. We will be discussing it with Aidan Donnelly Rowley and the rest of the SheKnows Book Club on Thursday, December 9th 8-11pm Eastern. Plenty of time to grab it and get it read, so I hope to see some of you there!

Buy this book from:
Powells.*
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound.*
Amazon.*

Source: SheKnows Book Club.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.