Chick-Lit, Reviews, Romance

Review: Bidding for Love

Bidding for Love Bidding for Love by Katie Fforde

My rating: 3.75 of 5 stars

Katie Fforde’s romantic chick-lit novels may not be the most well-written, and the plots may be formulaic, but they are sweet and a little sexy – just what you need sometimes, especially in summer. I particularly enjoy the rural English settings which always make me feel cozy and more than a little envious. Bidding for Love, like most of the other of Fforde’s novels I’ve read feature a spunky young woman trying to make it on her own in an unfamiliar setting. In this case, Flora has inherited more than half of the family auction house from a distant relative.
Flora, despite a rocky start, and a less than warm welcome, makes friends and starts to settle into the small village, her cozy cottage, and eventually the business. Until she realizes she’s falling in love with her stuffy, unavailable business partner. It is, as expected, a sweet, easy, breezy read. However, and maybe this is just because I’m an average American, but I kept getting hung up on the fact that Flora and Charles are cousins even though the distance of that relationship was reiterated often throughout the novel. It didn’t bother me enough to stop me from enjoying the story and the setting though.

I just love British Chick-Lit and I’m always looking for a new author in the genre (so if there’s someone you enjoy reading, please pass it on!) but for now Katie Fforde is my go-to writer for a gentler romantic comedy thanks to those cozy rural settings, spunky heroines, and sweet romances.  I particularly enjoyed Artistic License, Stately Pursuits, and Highland Fling.  

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Reviews, Woman's Fiction

Review: The Overdue Life of Amy Byler

The Overdue Life of Amy BylerThe Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Kelly Harms’s first novel, The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane, had me laughing out loud and almost crying with understanding; her second novel, The Matchmakers of Minnow Bay had me falling in love – mostly with the small Minnesota town but this, her third, lacked, in my opinion, the plot development of those other two novels. Still, it got me thinking, which seemed to be the whole point.

Amy Byler, the central character of The Overdue Life of Amy Byler is a dedicated librarian raising two children on her own after her husband went on a business trip to Japan and decided to stay there, abandoning his wife and their life.  Three years later he returns asking for a chance to get to know his children.  Amy has all kinds of reactions to his return but when their children decide (reluctantly) to give their father a chance, she is left with a week to herself and an opportunity to visit NYC and take a little time for herself.  When her husband asks for more time, the real adventure that is her #momspringa begins.

Amy is another of Harms’s lovable, relatable, recognizable characters and the supporting characters are well-rounded and endearing (even, at times, John). But there seemed to be little more to the story than a character you rooted for (and, pretty often, wanted to be!) and a couple of interesting ideas – #momspringa and Flexthology (not quite sure that was the name of the reading program Amy wanted to introduce in her school but it was a neat idea). I enjoyed reading The Overdue Life of Amy Byler because I liked Amy but the whole thing often seemed like an extension of the fictional article at the center of her New York adventure. What story there was, was fun, sometimes funny yet predictable (not necessarily a bad thing). Maybe I would have appreciated it more if I were a mother or wife (not that I couldn’t use a 3-month break from the every day!)

While I may not have been able to appreciate the Amy’s particular turmoil, there are other novels about single motherhood (or all motherhood for that matter) and the conflicting emotions that come with it that I also enjoyed despite never having been in their shoes.  I enjoyed Not Perfect by Elizabeth LaBan and I highly recommend One Plus One by Jojo Moyes.  If you enjoy Harms’s style, I would also recommend reading her other two novels, especially The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane which is one of my favorite reads of recent years.

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Mystery, Reviews

Review: Sunset Beach

Sunset BeachSunset Beach by Mary Kay Andrews

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Mary Kay Andrews is one of my go-to authors for a fun beach-type read so I am grateful to NetGalley for the opportunity to read her latest novel, Sunset Beach. I am a fan of Andrews’s southern fiction that combines elements of chick-lit, romance, and mystery with a healthy dose of humor and beach community atmosphere to create a fun, light read.

Sunset Beach, which is the story of Drue Campbell who is having a rough year – a horrific injury ends her kiteboarding career, her beloved mother passes away, and she loses a boyfriend and her job as a beach bar waitress. When her estranged father reenters her life and offers her a lifeline in the form of a job at his law firm and a home that had once been her grandparents’, Drue takes him up on it when she runs out of options. She ends up getting caught up in two mysteries. This all seems like a pretty good setup for a fun Mary Kay Andrews novel. What it was was a disappointment. It lacked most of Andrews’s trademark humor and romance to focus instead more on the mystery (or mysteries in this case). As a mystery, it wasn’t even that well executed and the heroine, while as capable as some of Andrews’s others, wasn’t endearing, just whiny.  I really had a difficult time getting into this one but that probably had more to do with my expectations of a Mary Kay Andrews than the novel’s quality.

If you enjoy fun southern fiction, I recommend Mary Kay Andrews’s the first book in Weezie and Bebe Mysteries novels, Savannah Blues .  If what you want is a thrilling mystery with a healthy sense of humor and a feisty heroine, I recommend Janet Evanovich’s extremely popular Stephanie Plum series (at least the first four books, which is as far as I’ve gotten so far, are a lot of fun).
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Historical Fiction, Reviews

Review: That Churchill Woman

That Churchill WomanThat Churchill Woman by Stephanie Barron

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Stephanie Barron’s novel, That Churchill Woman, is the story of Jennie Jerome, the American woman best known as Winston Churchill’s mother. Jennie is a strong, independent woman who in many respects is ahead of her time but must make sacrifices to avoid scandals that would destroy her husband’s career, damage her children’s future, and, yes, lose her place in Victorian society.
The story often goes back in time to explore Jennie’s formative years and the events that lead up to her becoming Lady Randolph Churchill. This helps the reader to understand a character whose decisions may not always be the most admirable but the novel’s strength lies not in character, who often seem two-dimensional, but in its power to transport the reader to the glittering world of society’s upper echelons during the Gilded Age. While reading I felt that I was in the parlors and ballrooms of British estates or on the rocky shores of the east coast of the U.S. And I could not only picture the sumptuous fashions but feel the materials and hear the rustle of the fabric.

If you enjoy historical fiction, particularly about the British Royal family or the Victorian era, I recommend reading Karen Harper’s The Royal Nanny, the story of LaLa who was charged with the care of George V’s (Victoria’s grandson) youngest children.

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Adventure, Fantasy, Reviews

Review: First Among Sequels (Thursday Next #5)

First Among Sequels (Thursday Next, #5)First Among Sequels by Jasper Fforde

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

First Among Sequels, the fifth book in Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series is set some 15 years after the end of the previous installment, Something Rotten. After her adventures trying to save the real world and the book world all while getting Landen back, this novel finds Thursday in a more, settled, domestic situation. Or so it seems.
The first half or so of the novel can be slow going at times as we peer into Thursday’s everyday life with Landen, their children, and her work at ACME Carpets. The final 100 pages though are filled with everything we’ve come to expect from a Thursday Next adventure – forays into the supernatural with Spike, dealing with the wicked Hades family, trouble from the Goliath Corporation, confusing timey-wimey stuff, and several trips into the Book World. Though this one is slower at times, it is still a fun, often funny addition to the strange and wonderful series.

If you are a book lover – the kind of book lover who dreams of living inside of books – or you like your adventures with a healthy dose of craziness, I recommend diving into the Thursday Next series.  So far I’ve particularly enjoyed Lost in a Good Book (TN #2) and Something Rotten (TN #4)

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