I’m back! Vacation was amazing and consisted mostly of eating constantly (lots of crab cakes), drinking, and reading books. Books have always been my way of judging the quality of a vacation, and this one was no different. Most of the following titles are books that I learned about from blogs so I’m paying it forward so to speak with my own reviews. Here is my summer vacation, in books.
All summaries are in italics and from Goodreads.com
Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson
Amy Curry thinks her life sucks. Her mom decides to move from California to Connecticut to start anew–just in time for Amy’s senior year. Her dad recently died in a car accident. So Amy embarks on a road trip to escape from it all, driving cross-country from the home she’s always known toward her new life. Joining Amy on the road trip is Roger, the son of Amy’s mother’s old friend. Amy hasn’t seen him in years, and she is less than thrilled to be driving across the country with a guy she barely knows. So she’s surprised to find that she is developing a crush on him. At the same time, she’s coming to terms with her father’s death and how to put her own life back together after the accident. Told in traditional narrative as well as scraps from the road–diner napkins, motel receipts, postcards–this is the story of one girl’s journey to find herself.
I have such a crush on this book. Within the pages, Amy is so lost and sad, and Roger is definitely Book Boyfriend material. It’s a sweet story interspersed with pictures, maps, and playlists that you guide you along their road trip. While reading, I had a friend on a road trip of her own and would see pictures on Facebook of different places that Amy and Roger visit, which added to the “cool for me factor”. The whole book made me want to go on a cross country road trip.
Are You There Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea by Chelsea Handler
When Chelsea Handler needs to get a few things off her chest, she appeals to a higher power – vodka. You would too if you found out that your boyfriend was having an affair with a Peekapoo or if you had to pretend to be honeymooning with your father in order to upgrade to first class. Welcome to Chelsea’s world – a place where absurdity reigns supreme and a quick wit is the best line of defense.
In this hilarious, deliciously skewed collection, Chelsea mines her past for stories about her family, relationships, and career that are at once singular and ridiculous. Whether she’s convincing her third-grade class that she has been tapped to play Goldie Hawn’s daughter in the sequel to Private Benjamin, deciding to be more egalitarian by dating a redhead, or looking out for a foulmouthed, rum-swilling little person who looks just like her… only smaller, Chelsea has a knack for getting herself into the most outrageous situations.
Chelsea Handler is offensive and hilarious. While I enjoyed many of these essays, my favorite Handler book is still My Horizontal Life. The highlight for me her essay discussing her obsession with midgets. Enough said.
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith
Today should be one of the worst days of seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan’s life. She’s stuck at JFK, late to her father’s second wedding, which is taking place in London and involves a soon to be step-mother that Hadley’s never even met. Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport’s cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he’s British, and he’s in seat 18C. Hadley’s in 18A.
Twists of fate and quirks of timing play out in this thoughtful novel about family connections, second chances and first loves. Set over a 24-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver’s story will make you believe that true love finds you when you’re least expecting it.
The premise sounds trite: Hadley and Oliver meet by chance at an airport when Hadley misses her flight and over the next twenty-four hours, their story unfolds. I don’t want to give much away (there’s a lot of info in the summary above,) but I LOVED this book. I realize that YA isn’t for everyone, but if it is your flavor, definitely add this book to your wish list.
The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott
Tess, an aspiring seamstress, thinks she’s had an incredibly lucky break when she is hired by famous designer Lady Lucile Duff Gordon to be a personal maid on the Titanic’s doomed voyage. Once on board, Tess catches the eye of two men, one a roughly-hewn but kind sailor and the other an enigmatic Chicago millionaire. But on the fourth night, disaster strikes.
Amidst the chaos and desperate urging of two very different suitors, Tess is one of the last people allowed on a lifeboat. Tess’s sailor also manages to survive unharmed, witness to Lady Duff Gordon’s questionable actions during the tragedy. Others—including the gallant Midwestern tycoon—are not so lucky.
On dry land, rumors about the survivors begin to circulate, and Lady Duff Gordon quickly becomes the subject of media scorn and later, the hearings on the Titanic. Set against a historical tragedy but told from a completely fresh angle, The Dressmaker is an atmospheric delight filled with all the period’s glitz and glamour, all the raw feelings of a national tragedy and all the contradictory emotions of young love.
I had never thought about the aftermath of the sinking of the Titanic, but like any tragic event in history, someone (or something) needed to be blamed. And there was plenty of blame to go around. There are a lot of things that I enjoyed about this book. Tess’ character is interesting, tough but also young and impressionable. She wades into the changing fashion world with Lady Duff Gordon and attempts to find her own path to becoming a dressmaker without losing her soul and sense of self along the way. The middle is a little slow, and the love triangle felt somewhat forced. What I most liked about the book, aside from the peek into the investigation following the sinking, was the relationships between the various women as they tried to navigate an evolving world.
Still in Progress:
Joy for Beginners by Erica Bauermeister
At an intimate, festive dinner party in Seattle, six women gather to celebrate their friend Kate’s recovery from cancer. Wineglass in hand, Kate strikes a bargain with them. To celebrate her new lease on life, she’ll do the one thing that’s always terrified her: white-water rafting. But if she goes, all of them will also do something they always swore they’d never do-and Kate is going to choose their adventures.
Shimmering with warmth, wit, and insight, Joy for Beginners is a celebration of life: unexpected, lyrical, and deeply satisfying.
I admit it, I have difficulty reading books about middle aged women. I have a hard time relating to characters who are married/divorced with kids. I enjoyed the premise of this book, though, and the idea that it’s never too late to take a chance and change things in life. My mom, however, had to borrow this book because she thought that a book about the Holocaust counted as beach reading. I’m waiting for her to return it so that I can finish.
MWF Seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search For A New Best Friend by Rachel Bertsche
When Rachel Bertsche first moves to Chicago, she’s thrilled to finally share a zip code with her boyfriend. But shortly after getting married, she realizes that her new life is missing one thing: friends. Sure, she has plenty of BFFs—in New York and San Francisco and Boston and Washington, D.C. Still, in her adopted hometown, there’s no one to call at the last minute for girl talk over brunch or a reality-TV marathon over a bottle of wine. Taking matters into her own hands, Bertsche develops a plan: Meeting people everywhere from improv class to friend rental websites, she’ll go on fifty-two friend-dates, one per week for a year, in hopes of meeting her new Best Friend Forever.
Bertsche did a lot of research about the nature of female friendships for this book, and while a lot of it is really interesting, it makes reading it a little dry. As someone who spent a year with little to no social interaction, though, I completely understand where she is coming from in her desire to find true friendship. I want to explore my own feelings about friendship and this book further in another post.
Beyond the Highland Mist by Karen Marie Moning
He would sell his warrior soul to possess her. . . .
An alluring laird…
He was known throughout the kingdom as Hawk, legendary predator of the battlefield and the boudoir. No woman could refuse his touch, but no woman ever stirred his heart–until a vengeful fairy tumbled Adrienne de Simone out of modern-day Seattle and into medieval Scotland. Captive in a century not her own, entirely too bold, too outspoken, she was an irresistible challenge to the sixteenth-century rogue. Coerced into a marriage with Hawk, Adrienne vowed to keep him at arm’s length–but his sweet seduction played havoc with her resolve.
A prisoner in time…
She had a perfect “no” on her perfect lips for the notorious laird, but Hawk swore she would whisper his name with desire, begging for the passion he longed to ignite within her. Not even the barriers of time and space would keep him from winning her love. Despite her uncertainty about following the promptings of her own passionate heart, Adrienne’s reservations were no match for Hawk’s determination to keep her by his side. . .
I actually finished this book Monday night. I read Moning’s Fever series a couple of months ago, and this felt like it was a precursor to those books (with less death and destruction and even more sex.) It’s a weird mix of fantasy and romance, but I think it works. I definitely enjoyed it.
Now it’s back to real life and the stresses that come with it. Wish me luck!