Thursday, February 4, 2016

Review: Opening Belle by Maureen Sherry

Blurb from Goodreads:
Getting rich on Wall Street would be a lot more fun if the men would keep their hands off her assets.

A whip-smart and funny novel told by a former Wall Street insider who reveals what it’s like for a working woman to balance love, ambition, and family in a world of glamorous excess, outrageous risk-taking, and jaw-dropping sexism.

In 2008, Isabelle—a self-made, thirty-something Wall Street star—appears to have it all: an Upper West Side apartment, three healthy children, a handsome husband, and a high-powered job. But her reality is something else. Her trading desk work environment resembles a 1980s frat party, her husband feels employment is beneath him, and the bulk of childcare and homecare still falls in Belle’s already full lap.

Enter Henry, the former college fiancé she never quite got over; now a hedge fund mogul. He becomes her largest client, and Belle gets to see the life she might have had with him. While Henry campaigns to win Belle back, the sexually harassed women in her office take action to improve their working conditions, and recruit a wary Belle into a secret “glass ceiling club” whose goal is to mellow the cowboy banking culture and get equal pay for their work. All along, Belle can sense the financial markets heading toward their soon-to-be historic crash and that something has to give—and when it does, everything is going to change: her marriage, her career, her world, and her need to keep her colleagues’ hands to themselves.

My Review:
Where do I start?  This very well might be a case of it's not you, it's me.  My first status update when reading this book was: I didn't know anyone hated their life this much.  And, truly, I could never comprehend, not during the entire course of this book, why someone would continue to live a life that made them so unhappy -- Belle is incredibly unhappy in her job, mostly because she is in a thankless situation with no room for advancement and feels like a bad mother since she is never home, hates almost everyone she works with because they are horrible to women and the culture is beyond hostile and misogynistic, is unhappy in her marriage and the fact that her husband doesn't really work but that she still has to do 90% of their children/home tasks, and still she is a slave to the absurd amount of money that she brings home every year, even though all she wants is more money and feels like she will never have enough money.  Even though Belle figures out that her job is essentially ruining the lives of ordinary Americans, it's all about her and how she can make more money.  And then there is her new biggest client -- he ex-fiance who left her on the street without telling her why.  It was the most bizarre "break-up" scene I have ever read and the book never explains it.  I will say that there was good social commentary in this book about the crash as well as being a woman in a male dominated career but it just left me depressed.  The ending was also pretty terrible -- everything resolves albeit in a tidy, if not ridiculous, way but I felt like something was missing. 

I would recommend this to fans of books like The KnockOff or BigLaw, both also about different industries but they have that same frantic New York pace and what it means to be a woman who should be able to have a career, whether it be in a male dominated world or a youth dominated field.  Many of the issues I had with this book may not be an issue for you, at all, and the writing is crisp.  Opening Belle came out this week on February 2, 2016, and you can purchase HERE.
Bruce entwines his fingers behind his head and starts doing sit-ups.  He's done speaking but now it's me who is agitated.  There are glimmers of something that deep down I've already known to be true about my line of work.  It's something I'd rather not think about and now I have to.  I lie next to him and we synchronize our sit-ups.  Brigid comes and sits on my middle to help.  We go up and down without speaking, just thinking.  Woof starts licking the salt off Bruce's face.  Together we grunt, contracting our soft bellies in uncomfortable crunches and exhaling with temporary relief.  We do this over and over while we both wonder what is real and what is not.  Do I have a great job or am I wrecking people's lives?  Do we have a great marriage or are we just getting by?  We overflow with questions we can neither ask of each other nor answer ourselves.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: A Wife of Noble Character by Yvonne Georgina Puig

 "Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that you are eagerly anticipating.

Today, I am waiting on:  
A Wife of Noble Character by Yvonne Georgina Puig

From Goodreads:
A juicy, sprawling comedy of manners about a group of thirtysomethings stumbling into adulthood among Houston's high-powered, oil money elite

Thirty-year-old Vivienne Cally is wealthy in name only. Orphaned as a child and raised by a cold but regal aunt, Vivienne was taught to rely on her beauty and Texas tradition, and is expected to marry a wealthy and respectable man who will honor the Cally name. Friends with Houston's most prominent families, she's a beloved fixture at social events, and suffers no shortage of access to the city's most eligible bachelors. Preston Duffin has known Vivienne and her set since childhood, though he's never shared their social aspirations or status. About to graduate from a prestigious architecture program, he is both fascinated and repelled by this group of friends he sits on the cusp of, one that shares none of his curiosity about the world beyond Houston. He's long admired Vivienne's beauty, but isn't sure he holds any place in so traditional a life. Intrigued by the extent to which Preston challenges the only way of life she's ever known, Vivienne both courts his attention, and rebuffs his critiques of her antiquated values. Inspired by Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth, A Wife of Noble Character shares the original novel's sharp social commentary at the same time that it illuminates the trappings and rewards of coming-of-age that are wholly unique to the twenty-first century. Part biting wit, part good old-fashioned love story, it takes readers from Texas to Paris and Switzerland and back again, and will charm both fans of Wharton and anyone who has ever struggled to find their path in life.
Have you read The House of Mirth? It is amazing!  So I am so intrigued by this modern retelling/inspired work!!  A Wife of Noble Character is scheduled for release on August 2, 2016, and I can't wait!

What books are you waiting on this Wednesday??

Monday, February 1, 2016

Review: The Big Rewind by Libby Cudmore

Blurb from Goodreads:
Raymond Chandler meets Nick Hornby in this clever noir romp through hipster Brooklyn as a mysterious mix tape puts a young amateur sleuth on the hunt for a killer—and for the truths hidden within her own heart.

Jett Bennett moved to New York to become a music journalist. What she found was a temp gig as a proofreader, but at least she’s fitting in with the artists and musicians in the tragically hip Brooklyn neighborhood she calls home.

But when Jett opens up her mail and finds a mix tape meant for her neighbor, KitKat, a local queen bee renowned for her “enhanced” baked goods and retro videogame collection, everything changes. Jett drops off the cassette and discovers that it’s game over for KitKat: someone bashed her head in with a rolling pin… and left her pot brownies burning in the oven.

KitKat’s boyfriend, Bronco, is M.I.A. Her sister is so desperate that she asks Jett to snoop around. Then there’s that mix tape. Jett didn’t know KitKat well, but she knows music. And a tape full of love songs from someone other than Bronco screams motive—sending Jett and her best friend, Sid, on an epic quest to find KitKat’s killer through record stores, strip joints, vegan bakeries, and basement nightclubs—a journey that resonates with Jett, and her past, in unexpected ways.
I was highly anticipating The Big Rewind- I love music, I loved (absolutely adored) making mix tapes and CDs, and I generally like murder mysteries.  While I did enjoy this book, several things left me a bit frustrated with the ultimate execution and ending of this story.  First, was almost too melancholy and nostalgic for even me -- her age isn't specifically referenced but I assume she was in her mid-to-late twenties based upon the context of university and the age of those around her.  Maybe it's just me but I don't think your mid-to-late twenties is the time to be pining for all your previous boyfriends to the point where it is disrupting your life.  Throughout the book, Jett is almost fanatical about her old boyfriend, who we come to find out, she never even told she loved, which is why he moved on without her.  Without spoilers, the whole scene was bizarre when she went to confront her old boyfriend, especially since nearly every other scene of the book involved Jett languishing and obsessing over her best friend, Sid.  I guess, for me, there was too much emphasis on Jett's love life and not enough on Jett, herself, and the mystery of KitKat.  I understand that Jett's love life was used to detail her feelings about music and all her past mix tapes, but I think the explanation and execution could have been done better to integrate this plot device.

However, I would still recommend this to fans of music and mystery -- this book is definitely NA and not YA.  If you ever made a mix tape or CD, and happen to like light mystery solving, this may be the book for you.  This book is almost High Fidelity meets hipster Brooklyn Nancy Drew (I hesitate to compare Jett to Veronica Mars because, let's face it, no one is as kick-ass and awesome as VM!).  The Big Rewind will be released tomorrow, February 2, 2016, and you can purchase HERE!  
There isn't a better feeling in the world—not an orgasm, not a first kiss, not even that glorious soaring sensation you get when those first few notes of a new song pierce your chest and fill your whole body with absolute bliss—than acknowledgment that your mix tape was not only received and played but enjoyed.  It's a dance of sorts, balancing songs you think the listener will love while trying to say everything that otherwise dries up in your throat before you can get out the words.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Review: The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra

Blurb from Goodreads:
From the New York Times bestselling author of A Constellation of Vital Phenomena—dazzling, poignant, and lyrical interwoven stories about family, sacrifice, the legacy of war, and the redemptive power of art.

This stunning, exquisitely written collection introduces a cast of remarkable characters whose lives intersect in ways both life-affirming and heartbreaking. A 1930s Soviet censor painstakingly corrects offending photographs, deep underneath Leningrad, bewitched by the image of a disgraced prima ballerina. A chorus of women recount their stories and those of their grandmothers, former gulag prisoners who settled their Siberian mining town. Two pairs of brothers share a fierce, protective love. Young men across the former USSR face violence at home and in the military. And great sacrifices are made in the name of an oil landscape unremarkable except for the almost incomprehensibly peaceful past it depicts. In stunning prose, with rich character portraits and a sense of history reverberating into the present, The Tsar of Love and Techno is a captivating work from one of our greatest new talents.
My Review:
I will admit that the first few chapters of this one took some effort to get into but once I got a better sense of the book, I was enthralled.  Such beautiful writing!!  The best way that I can describe this book is that it follows one particular painting, of a particular field in Chechnya, and it spans many decades to tell the story of this field, this painting, and the people that were impacted by both.  It is sometimes hard to see the forest through the trees in a book that is so masterful and so beautifully written through the use of seemingly divergent stories, and it took some time for all the threads and lives and stories to make sense, but it was done in such a gorgeous and unique way.  I had no sense of the history and the wars in the former USSR but this book left me reeling and thinking about the world I don't know.  The ending was perfect.  I definitely want to read more from this author!

I would have no hesitation in recommending this book to fans of beautifully written and captivating literary fiction, especially historical literary fiction.

The Tsar of Love and Techno came out last year, you can purchase HERE, and I highly recommend it!
You have waited for me past the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, past each of Saturn's rings.  It's ridiculous, so stupid, I know, to cross the entire solar system just to hear you and Galina butcher Tchaikovsky.  If ever there was an utterance of perfection, it is this.  If God has a voice, it is ours.  
The calcium in collarbones I have kissed.  The iron in the blood flushing those cheeks.  We imprint our intimacies upon atoms born from an explosion so great it still marks the emptiness of space.  A shimmer of photons bears the memory across the long dark amnesia.  We will be carried too, mysterious particles that we are.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that you are eagerly anticipating.

Today, I am waiting on:  
One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid

From Edelweiss:
From the author of Maybe in Another Life—named a People Magazine pick and a "Best Book of the Summer" by Glamour and USA TODAY—comes a breathtaking new love story about a woman unexpectedly forced to choose between the husband she has long thought dead and the fiancé who has finally brought her back to life. 
In her twenties, Emma Blair marries her high school sweetheart, Jesse. They build a life for themselves, far away from the expectations of their parents and the people of their hometown in Massachusetts. They travel the world together, living life to the fullest and seizing every opportunity for adventure.

On their first wedding anniversary, Jesse is on a helicopter over the Pacific when it goes missing. Just like that, Jesse is gone forever.

Emma quits her job and moves home in an effort to put her life back together. Years later, now in her thirties, Emma runs into an old friend, Sam, and finds herself falling in love again. When Emma and Sam get engaged, it feels like Emma’s second chance at happiness.

That is, until Jesse is found. He’s alive, and he’s been trying all these years to come home to her. With a husband and a fiancé, Emma has to now figure out who she is and what she wants, while trying to protect the ones she loves.

Who is her one true love? What does it mean to love truly?

Emma knows she has to listen to her heart. She’s just not sure what it’s saying.
I love this author and I can't wait for her latest!!  One True Loves is scheduled for release on June 7, 2016, and I can't wait!

What books are you waiting on this Wednesday??

Monday, January 25, 2016

Top Ten Books I Re-Read Every Year!

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the fab ladies at The Broke and the Bookish!

Are there any books you re-read every year?  
I love freebie top tens!  I re-read the Love Me With Lies series and the Raven Cycle series every year and have since the first time I read the first book in each series.  What did you choose for your TTT freebie today?

Review: Jane and the Waterloo Map (Jane Austen Mysteries #13) by Stephanie Barron

Blurb from Goodreads:
Jane Austen turns sleuth in this delightful Regency-era mystery

November, 1815. The Battle of Waterloo has come and gone, leaving the British economy in shreds; Henry Austen, high-flying banker, is about to declare bankruptcy—dragging several of his brothers down with him. The crisis destroys Henry’s health, and Jane flies to his London bedside, believing him to be dying. While she’s there, the chaplain to His Royal Highness the Prince Regent invites Jane to tour Carlton House, the Prince’s fabulous London home. The chaplain is a fan of Jane’s books, and during the tour he suggests she dedicate her next novel—Emma—to HRH, whom she despises.

However, before she can speak to HRH, Jane stumbles upon a body—sprawled on the carpet in the Regent’s library. The dying man, Colonel MacFarland, was a cavalry hero and a friend of Wellington’s. He utters a single failing phrase: “Waterloo map” . . . and Jane is on the hunt for a treasure of incalculable value and a killer of considerable cunning.
My Review:
The best way to describe this book is Murder, She Wrote meets Jane Austen in which Jane Austen is akin to Jessica Fletcher in solving the murder mystery even though all the men think she is a bumbling, fragile lady.  You would think that since I love both Jane Austen and Murder, She Wrote, this would be a smash hit for me.  But it wasn't.  I know this will sound odd but I felt like Jane Austen was not truly how Jane Austen would be (or at least how I imagine her) -- she was a bit annoying and the book took at least 40% to get into and for the pacing to pick up.  I am not sure if I will go back and read earlier books in this series -- it is amazing that there are thirteen of them!  I had no problem reading this one without reading prior books although there were a ton of "editor's notes" via footnotes that referred to previous books.  That's another criticism I have, in general, about this book—all of the "editor's notes" that were supposed to show how historically accurate the author was in her story instead came off as condescending and as if the reader was not familiar at all with the regency era (uneducated comes to mind).

I would still recommend this to anyone that likes mystery, the regency era and Jane Austen, in particular because you may have better luck than I did with it.  Jane and the Waterloo Map is scheduled to be released February 2, 2016, and you can purchase HERE!  
But there is no fool like an old fool.  The haunting image of a creature named Isabella rose before my eyes.  It must be impossible to ask him directly about her importance in his life.  He is a man of the World, after all, as his father is forever telling me.  He owes no explanation of his habits or arrangements.  Once, I was a green girl enough to dream of happiness with an improbable suitor, from an utterly different world
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