Saturday, May 24, 2014

My take on: S.E.C.R.E.T

Before diving into S.E.C.R.E.T by  L. Marie Adeline, I have to begin with a little disclaimer. If you're under 18, a prude, religious, or not a fan of erotica, I suggest you come back later.

Cassie Robichaud is content to be lonely. She toils her days away waiting tables at a failing eatery in New Orleans. At the end of a long shift, she heads home to her cat and an empty apartment. Her husband is dead, but their relationship was over long before his demise. Something is missing in her life, but she doesn't know what. After discovering a rather revealing notebook left in the cafe by a mysterious woman, Cassie is about embark on a journey that will change her forever!

What's in this notebook? It's filled with this woman's sexual fantasies. Sex with multiple partners at the same time, and that's just a small taste of what was in the notebook. Cassie isn't sure she should keep reading. It's an invasion of privacy right? Is she crossing a boundary? Or is she afraid to admit she's turned on by these fantasies? Does Cassie want these fantasies to become her reality?

Turn's out the owner of said notebook is a member of an underground society of women called S.E.C.R.E.T. This "club" is dedicated to helping women rediscover themselves. Yes, they do it through sexual fantasies but fortunately the book isn't all about sex. I like that there is a buildup, an actual storyline before plunging into Cassie's fantasies. At first, she's afraid to indulge. Before Cassie can become a full member of S.E.C.R.E.T, she has to go through several steps. With each step, Cassie earns another charm a special bracelet, which is given to all women in the club. Once all the steps are completed, she can choose to become a member of this society and help other women just like her or seek out a loving relationship.

Surrendering is the first step and the hardest for Cassie. Each step comes with a choice, and she isn't always sure of which way to turn. She isn't doing this alone, Cassie has a mentor, Matilda, to confide in. Whatever insecurities or uncertainties Cassie is having she can go to Matilda. But Cassie still has her doubts. What if people can notice the change in her? What if she runs into people she knows while indulging in her fantasies? Can she go through all of the steps? Is she really desirable? Can she truly see herself as desirable?

With each chapter, the change in Cassie is noticeable. She comes out of her shell. She becomes bolder and more confident. The book is more about female empowerment than sex. Yes, there are A LOT of racy scenes, but they don't overpower the central plot -- Cassie discovering her true self. The whole time I felt like I was reading a diary. Each chapter is Cassie's intimate thoughts. Even I began to wonder, "Should I be reading this?" But I kept going! This is the first in a trilogy, so I will definitely finish the other two books. In fact I already have them! Stay tuned!

Rating: Superb

Note: I received a copy of the book from Sullivan and Partners in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

My take on: The Idea of Him

I'm not quite sure what to say about my The Idea of Him by Holly Peterson. I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it either. I guess "indifferent" is the best way to describe my experience with this book. Why? PACING!! The pacing was just off for me. It was hard to tell what the endgame was for this book.

Initially, the cover and the title caught my eye. Looking at that cover, there is definitely a story there. A woman pondering the state of her marriage? I'm always a sucker for family drama. It's easy to think that the marriage at the center of this plot is falling apart due to infidelity. But the title made me think that there could be more. Perhaps this woman had fallen in love with the idea of marriage, but didn't really think about the consequences? I had high hopes for this one.

Allie Crawford has a life most would envy, a job as a high-profile PR exec, two beautiful children, Lucy and Blake, and a successful husband. What could be wrong? It all starts with a casino chip falling out of her husband's pocket. Why does he have the casino chip? Who has he been gambling with? Was he with another woman? There could be so many reasons. Wade is trying to get more advertisers for his magazine, so maybe he was schmoozing with potential clients? An attractive and mysterious woman claims to have all the answers. According to this mystery woman, some of Wade's recent actions will destroy Allie's family. I was intrigued by this. This book was going to be more than just a standard chick-lit, there was going to be some mystery to it. But.............

I kept waiting for the payoff. A new man and an old flame further complicate things. Allie doesn't know which way to turn. Every time I thought the big reveal was coming, the author delved into Allie's complicated past. As a teenager, Allie survived a plane crash but her father did not. She has a best friend named James, whom she always thought was "THE ONE." I didn't mind the flashbacks, I think they added some depth to her character. I just think the flashbacks interrupted the flow of the present-day narrative. One moment Allie is in the present day, and the next she's daydreaming about the past. There didn't seem to be any clear cut transitions between the two narratives. You get me interested in one narrative, only to distract me with another.

I'm not always a fan of a non-linear book, and this is one of those times. I kept reading because I wanted the big payoff, but by the end I wasn't that satisfied. At 374 pages, the book felt longer than it should have.

Rating: Give it a try

Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (HarperCollins) as part of a blog tour with Premier Virtual Author Book Tours

Friday, May 16, 2014

My take on: Four Friends

After reading Four Friends, by Robyn Carr, I had to think about something. How well do I know my neighbors? I have lived in the same house for nearly 20 years, and I can honestly say I don't know much. I know some names, I know who lives where, I know whose car is whose, and .... that's about it. It's sad!

Would I know if something was wrong? Would I know if they were celebrating something? Do any of us really know what goes on behind closed doors? Or do we let people see what we want them to see?

Why all the the questions? Simple, at the heart of this book is a friendship between four women. Three of them have been friends for years, and one has recently come into the fold. All four of them have a story to tell.

Gerri is the rock of the group. She and her husband, Phil, run their family like a well-oiled machine. With three kids, one of them always makes sure they are around. They both have demanding jobs. Sometimes there isn't time enough time to give their relationship or their sex life the attention it deserves. But, as far as Gerri is concerned their marriage is rock solid ... or is it.

Andy's latest marriage has just fallen apart. Her husband would rather live like a single man. She can never pick the right man, but the right man might be right in front of her. Her handyman, Bob, isn't the type of person she would normally be attracted to. He is bald and has a little extra weight around the middle. She always goes for the pretty boy, but after just a few chapters I was screaming "HE'S RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU!!" Ok, I wasn't screaming.

Sonja is a little out there. She's one of those New Age-types. You know the kind who want to cleanse your aura, burn sage, and feed you grass for dinner. If I had to live with a person like that, I would go bonkers. But if a person like that was just a friend, perhaps I could learn to tolerate them. Sonja's husband on the other hand, has had enough. The collapse of her marriage throws her completely off track. She couldn't see it coming. There's an order to her life. Who is she without her orderly New-Age life? Is there something wrong with her?

BJ has lived on the street for a year, but no one knows much about her. But a crisis with Sonja forces everyone to see a different side of her. She has her own story, too. She's a single mother, raising two kids. The person that they usually ignore or just said a passing greeting to, is a caring person just like the rest of them.

I'm not married (yet!), but a lot of the situations seemed very realistic. After finding out her husband had an affair (don't worry that's not really a spoiler), Gerri begins to wonder how she missed the signs. Even though the affair was two years ago, it's hard for her to get past the betrayal. Is it her fault? Is it his? Or both? It seemed a little far-fetched that three marriages, on the the same street would all fall apart at the same time. But once I got passed that, I did enjoy the book and you will too!

Rating: Give it a try

Note: I received an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review for Little Bird Publicity

Friday, May 2, 2014

My take on: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

Sometimes when I read a book and I'm not quite sure where it's going I give up. But sometimes, I keep going. The end of each chapter reveals another layer about the characters. Sometimes I'm disappointed with the ending, but sometimes I'm pleasantly surprised.

With The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, by Gabrielle Zevin, I was pleasantly surprised!

A quirky book about a quirky bookseller who loves books? In my opinion, that's often a recipe for success.

When it comes to books, A.J. Fikry is a bit of a snob. He's more likely to read books by F. Scott Fitzgerald than James Patterson. After the recent death of his wife, he feels a closer connection to books than people. I can totally understand that. I'm not a hermit, but sometimes I would rather read a book over anything else.

A.J. is set in his ways. He is pulling away from all the people in his life, including his sister-in-law, Ismay, and Officer Lambiase, a friend and fellow bookworm. Why pull away from people when his business is all about people? Island Books, the only bookstore located in a small island town, is financially-strapped and people are essential to his business. Sales rep Amelia Loman tries her best to get A.J. excited about the upcoming books in her catalog, but his shell is just too tough to crack. After just one trip, Amelia wonders if her passion is wasted on a stubborn man like A.J.

After a long day, A.J. retreats to his small apartment above the store and drowns himself in alcohol. It's during one of those drunken stupors that A.J.'s life changes forever. His prized copy of a rare and valuable Edgar Allan Poe is stolen. Tamerlane, a legendary work by Poe, held a special place in his heart. He might have never sold it, but he liked to look at it and admire it. Maybe life will go on without it. Soon after the theft a special delivery arrives for A.J. What is it? Or who is it?

I don't think it's a spoiler by saying this next part because it happens early in the book. Who or what could force a stubborn, middle-aged widower out of his funk? If you think hard, I'm sure you could guess. A.J. is hardly ever around children, but a toddler named Maya will change everything he thought he knew about himself and the world. Maya brings A.J. out of his shell. He starts to have faith in people again. Life has more meaning and purpose. Even Amelia starts to notice a change, A.J. is finally willing to listen to her. He even starts to see the woman behind the quirky clothes.

There is a lot to love about this book, but it really took me until the end of the book to get it. Each chapter begins with a critique on some of the books A.J. has read. I wasn't sure what the point of that was -- until I got to the last 40-50 pages. I can't tell you what that is because that would spoil the book. But at the end, everything made sense. The book unfolded just as it should -- and I was pleasantly surprised!

Rating: Superb

Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (Algonquin Books). The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry was the April book club selection for She Reads.