Tuesday, June 26, 2018

(47)Sex and the City and Us by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong

I recently found myself home alone on a Saturday night and stumbled across some reruns of Sex and the City on basic cable, they were celebrating the 20th anniversary of the first episode.  Twenty years since we first met Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte.   The brief hint of nostalgia reminded me that I had Sex and the City and Us just waiting to be read.

In Sex and the City and Us, Author Jennifer Keishin Armstrong takes us by the hand and leads us down memory lane.  But on our stroll down the streets of New York City, she also gives us all of the "behind the scenes" details that we could ever want.   From the decision to go with HBO to the initial casting and Kim Cattrall's reluctance to joining the cast.  Not to mention Sarah Jessica Parker's reluctance to join the cast.  The author takes us through all six seasons and even includes the two movies.  From the costuming to set designs and location used for filming, nothing is left out. Including everything about the opening with the tutu and the city bus.   And IT IS AWESOME. 

I was one of those women who eagerly waited for Sunday nights so I could hang out with my "friends."  My first trip to New York City was in the summer of 1999, just as Sex and the City was hitting its stride. I remember watching the show, eagerly looking for the landmarks newly familiar to me.  Beyond that though, was the longing for fashion sense of Carrie, the career confidence of Miranda, the sexual brazenness of Samantha, and the wholesome goodness of Charlotte.  Depending on the day I considered myself a Charlotte or a Maranda.  All women of a certain age could identify with one or all of the women.  Sex and the City is one of those groundbreaking shows that changed the world for women all over the globe.  And it changed women all over the globe.

Bottom Line -  As I found out the other night, Sex and the City is one of those shows that stands the test of time.   Sex and the City and Us is a well written, well-researched book that explores the ins and outs of one of my favorite shows ever.    If you have fond memories of the show like I do, then you definitely need to check out this book.   You will thank me later!


Monday, June 25, 2018

(46)Best Beach Ever by Wendy Wax

Once again it is summer and we are able to catch up with our favorite residents of Ten Beach Road.   But once their reality show hit the skids, they were forced to rent out Bella Flora for the summer. They are all having a hard time adjusting to their new "normal."  Maddie is off touring with her rockstar boyfriends.  Kyra is spending the summer on a movie set with her son and his father, but her mind is back at Bella Flora and with the man who rented Bella Flora.  Nikki is struggling with being a first-time mother - to twins.  She wants to be able to do it all, but at forty-seven it is exhausting. Avery is  And Bitsy is finally tracking down her scum of an ex-husband.   The women are all traveling down different paths, but one thing remains constant - their friendship.

Best Beach Ever is one of those beach books where their life is not perfect just because they live on the beach.  The Ten Beach Road series has always been that way - these women have been through a lot together and their friendship just endures.  With this installment I found myself feeling bad for Nikki and her new role as a mother.  I am 42 and there is no way that I could imagine having a baby, let along two.  She was obviously completely exhausted. I was also thrilled for Bitsy, finally getting the closure that she so desperately needed from her lying, cheating, and thieving husband.  The friends may not be spending their summer the way they would like, but at least they are spending it on the Best Beach Ever.

Bottom Line - In Best Beach Ever, Wendy Wax continues her "Ten Beach Road" world with familiar characters and new challenges.   For those of you familiar with the series, you will enjoy catching up with old friends!


Tuesday, June 12, 2018

(45)Marriage Vacation by Pauline Turner Brooks

If you haven't been watching Younger on TVLand then you are missing out. Set in New York City, the half-hour comedy features Sutton Foster as a fortysomething trying to get back to the career she had in publishing before getting married and raising a family. In order to even get a job as an assistant, she has to pass herself off as twenty-six.  And she does so.  Now it is in Season 5 and the estranged wife of her boss, Charles Brooks, is back from her "Marriage Vacation" and she has written a book that Empirical Press is going to publish.  The problem is that Pauline Turner Brooks' fictional book dangerously mirrors the "real life" of Charles and Pauline.

In the book Marriage Vacation, Kate Carmichael is married to the successful publisher, Carl Carmichael.  She has two beautiful young daughters.  A fabulous townhouse on Manhattan's Upper Eastside and has all of the money she could possibly want to do whatever she wants.  Yet she feels so empty, so unfulfilled.  Kate has the chance to travel solo to California for a wedding she doesn't really find herself eager to return home.  When her old college friend offers her a chance to go to Thailand she decides to go.  Soon one week goes by without returning home, then two weeks, and then six months.  She has made friends, has spent time finding herself and the independent woman she left behind when she married her husband. And then she receives a letter in the mail.  It has been almost a year and her husband wants a divorce.  The shock of it jolts Kate and starts her on her return trip home.  But is she prepared for what might be the fate of her marriage?

I can see where a book like Marriage Vacation might resonate with a lot of readers, both on Younger and in real life, but I really struggled with liking Kate.  I can understand the needing a break from the stressors of being a  wife and mother in the pressure cooker that is the Upper Eastside, but to leave her family and obligations for a full year?  And then be shocked when her husband wants a divorce?  Bitch, please.  Now, knowing that the book is a thinly veiled look at the fictional life of Pauline Turner Brooks makes it very hard to even like the character that is Charles' wife.  Ultimately, I did like Marriage Vacation, even if I struggled to like the character. It is a fairly fluffy read that is quick and easy to read.

Bottom Line - Pauline Turner Brooks is not a real person.  She is a character on a popular television show (watch it!!) who wrote a book.  Marriage Vacation is *that* book.   If you watch Younger (watch it!!) then you know what I am talking about and if you don't watch it, you really should.


Saturday, June 9, 2018

(44)Something In The Water by Catherine Steadman

Mark and Erin appear to be the perfect couple, embarking on their new life together as a married couple. Mark is an investment banker who lost his job just prior to their wedding.  Erin is a documentary filmmaker on the verge of making it big with her project focusing on three newly released prisoners. Their honeymoon to Bora Bora is a once in a lifetime trip for both of them.  At first, it is everything that they had hoped for, but one afternoon they are out diving when they come across a duffel bag. They tried to turn it over to resort personnel, but the bag found it's way back to them.  The bag containing a million dollars, a bag of flawless two-carat diamonds, a phone,  a thumb drive, and a gun.  The newlyweds are excited but cautious.  Where did this bag come from and what kind of people could be looking for it?  They return to the spot they found the bag in an effort to find more information and they find the wreckage of a plane. To them, this is justification for keeping the bag. They cover their tracks, head home, and plot ways that will allow them to keep the money in ways that won't raise flags with the authorities.  As the days pass they come to realize that this money puts them in a very dangerous position. Mark does everything he can to discourage Erin from selling the diamonds, but she just won't let it go.  She soon realizes just how far she, and Mark, are willing to go for millions of dollars. And it is farther than either of them thought possible.

I had no idea until I started to write this post that Catherine Steadman is an actress best known for her role on Downton Abbey.   Something in the Water is part thriller part heist novel.  I get it that Mark and Erin were hoping to get away with the perfect crime, but they put their lives in grave danger to do so.  I thought they were rather stupid for everything they did, but there wouldn't have been a story if they had turned the bag into the authorities.  The stress of being found out pushed Erin and Mark apart, rather than bringing them closer together.  Erin (and the readers) assumed that Mark's strong opposition was because he feared for safety, but they would be wrong.  I think that that revelation was the most shocking to me.  For a thriller, I didn't think the book was very fast-paced, but rather the story started slow and took some time building the suspense. The end was a bit shocking to me, but in the end, I was pleased with the way the author wrapped everything up.  - CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS

Bottom Line - In Something In The Water, Catherine Steadman takes two very ordinary people and shows what happens to them when they try to get away with the perfect crime.  She proves that a crazy amount of money can and will destroy even the strongest of people.  It makes for some interesting food for thought.  What would you do if you could potentially get away with taking millions of dollars that do not belong to you?


(43)The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy

The May-Mothers are a group of Brooklyn moms who all recently had their first child.  They meet in Prospect Park under the shade of the willow tree and swap stories, share tips and commiserate the stresses of being a new mother. There is Nell, the career woman with her thick British accent, Collette is the author who is ghost-writing her second book while her partner is the new darling of the literary world.   Francie is the transplant from the deep south and struggles to fit into the New York City social scene. And finally, there is Winnie, the single mom who keeps to herself.  There are other members of the group that come and go, but those are the core member. On the 4th of July, the eve of her returning to work, Nell, convinces them all that they deserve a night out. They all agree, but Winnie does so reluctantly. She has never left little Midas alone, but even she looks forward to some time away from the baby.   But when she returns home to find Midas missing Winnie is devastated.  Her whole world is turned upside down and all of her secrets are revealed.  Her three friends are willing to do anything, risk anything, to help Winnie find Midas. But what will happen when their own secrets are revealed?

The Perfect Mother, set in the sizzling heat of summer, takes a group of exhausted new mothers and sets them in the middle of every mother's worst nightmare.  The core group of women are about as different as women could be - it is not likely that they would have ever connected if not for the birth month their children shared.  I didn't really have a "favorite" of the group.  They all were struggling with motherhood in their own way.  They wanted, desperately, to be "The Perfect Mother" and were trying to live up to these impossible standards.  I would say that they were even ashamed that they were not perfect at all.  Those that had partners were lucky that they had committed and dedicated partners and they all felt sorry for Winnie for not having the baby's father in her life.  The tempo of the book seems to pick up as the days since Midas went missing pass.  The sense of urgency is palpable and as the reader, you can't help but feel the same dread all of these new mothers feel.   I was a little surprised by the ending but realized that I shouldn't have been surprised at all.  CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS. 

Bottom Line - Being a new mother is terrifying. Being "The Perfect Mother" is impossible, yet it is a trap that all mother get caught in.  Aimeee Molloy has written a real nail-biter about every mother's worst nightmare.  One to read if you are looking for a great thriller.


Monday, June 4, 2018

(42)When Life Gives You LuLulemons by Lauren Weisberger

Some time has passed since we first met Emily Charlton, Miranda Priestly's former assistant.  Now Emily is thirty-six and losing all of her best clients to the newest, hottest, image consultant.  The latest blow is when the hottest teen heartthrob chooses her competitor over her.  She heads off to her best friend's house in Greenwich, Connecticut to lick her wounds.  Emily's oldest friend, Miriam welcomes Emily with open arms.  Miriam hasn't been in the suburbs long, she and her husband left the city to give their three kids a chance at life with a backyard.  Having Emily around gives her a chance to relive days gone.  Karolina Hartwell is also a friend of Miriam's.  When word breaks that the Senator's wife was arrested for a DUI with a carful of kids Miriam doesn't believe it for a  minute. She knows that there is more to the story and she rushes to the aide of her friend.  The three friends may be losing the battle against aging, but they at least will be losing it together.   Will the three of them be able to come to terms with their current realities?   But most importantly, will they be able to get Karolina her son back?

It has been a million years since I read The Devil Wears Prada, but it isn't necessary to remember anything about that book in order to enjoy  When Life Gives You Lululemons.  If there is anything that I understand, it is no longer being the youngest, freshest woman in the room.  Lauren Weisberger tackles the topic of aging (and aging gracefully) in a fun and entertaining way.   Karolina is losing her husband to a younger woman, Emily is losing her clients to a younger woman, and Miriam is feeling out of her element in a community where youth and beauty rules all.  I felt a serious "Tawanda" moment (look up Fannie Flagg if you do not get that reference) when they took on the Senator.  (He was a complete douchebag, by the way).  In the process, the three women solidify their bond. 

Bottom Line - When Life Gives You Lululemons isn't going to win any literary awards or even make it to some of the favored book clubs, but it is entertaining as all get out.  Especially if you are a woman of a certain age, throw it in your beach bag and you are guaranteed to have a fun afternoon.


Sunday, June 3, 2018

(41)The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware

Harriet, Hal, Westaway has been barely hanging on since her mother passed away. She took over her mother's fortune-telling business, but it seems like there is never enough money to pay the bills. One day she receives a letter from a solicitor in Cornwall saying that she is the recipient of a rather large inheritance.  Hal knows that the letter was sent to her in error, but the thought of an inheritance is too good to pass up.  She sets off to Trepassen and finds a vast, yet decrepit estate that would remind one of Manderley.  Hal knows that she will need to be on her game to pass herself off as the granddaughter of the deceased woman, but she can't help but also be drawn into the fact that these people are welcoming her as a part of their family.  She hasn't had a family since her mother died.  Then weird things start to happen to Hal - like the door to her attic bedroom gets stuck, and she takes a tumble down the stairs that didn't feel like an accident.  And then there are the bars on her bedroom window and the "Help Me" that has been carved into the window sill.  While the money would save her from her troubles, Hal does not feel that it is worth her life.  When Hal discovers a dark, long kept secret, she realizes that maybe, just maybe she does belong at Trepassen. 

I don't think that I have read such a gothic feeling novel since I read Rebecca last year.  Hal is a woman who knows struggle.  From the very beginning, she just seems so sad and broken, only perking up when she thinks that this letter might be the answer to all of her troubles.  When she gets to Trepassen she meets a mixed group of people, and most of them are relieved that Mrs. Westaway is gone, as she was not a pleasant woman.   The housekeeper was most definitely creepy and also reminiscent of the housekeeper in Rebecca. I had the big twist figured out pretty early on, but I wasn't even mad about it.   Such an atmospheric novel is so rare these days that it was easy to get lost in the pages, even if I did have it figured out. -- CLICK HERE FOR SPOILERS -- I was okay with all of the "truths" revealed and thought that the ending was satisfactory.

Bottom Line - The Death of Mrs. Westaway is probably my favorite book by Ruth Ware yet.  The gothic atmosphere of the novel created such an appealing story that it was impossible to put down. This one is going to appear on all of the "Must Read" lists of the summer, that I am sure of. 


Why I Read...

I remember the carefree summer days when I used to ride my bike to the public library to pick out new books. I would go almost daily to find books to read. I read to learn. I read to explore the world. I read to escape. I read because not reading is not an option.

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