Year of the Bookwormz: 2011

52 weeks. 2 friends. 1 challenge.

Book #24: Fabookulous July 20, 2010

Fly Away Home by Jennifer Weiner

Book description:

When Sylvie Serfer met Richard Woodruff in law school, she had wild curls, wide hips, and lots of opinions. Decades later, Sylvie has remade herself as the ideal politician’s wife- her hair dyed and straightened, her hippie-chick wardrobe replaced by tailored knit suits. At fifty-seven, she ruefully acknowledges that her job is staying twenty pounds thinner than she was in her twenties and tending to her husband, the senator.

Lizzie, the Woodruffs’ younger daughter, is at twenty-four a recovering addict, whose mantra HALT (Hungry? Angry? Lonely? Tired?) helps her keep her life under control. Still, trouble always seems to find her. Her older sister, Diana, an emergency room physician, has everything Lizzie failed to achieve- a husband, a young son, the perfect home- and yet she’s trapped in a loveless marriage. With temptation waiting in one of the ER’s exam rooms, she finds herself craving more.

After Richard’s extramarital affair makes headlines, the three women are drawn into the painful glare of the national spotlight. Once the press conference is over, each is forced to reconsider her life, who she is and who she is meant to be.

Written with an irresistible blend of heartbreak and hilarity, Fly Away Home is an unforgettable story of a mother and two daughters who after a lifetime of distance finally learn to find refuge in one another.

Fans of Jennifer Weiner will love her latest novel, Fly Away Home. I don’t know how she continues to do it, time and time again, but Jennifer Weiner can keep you enthralled in a story and engaged in the characters on every single page. She continues to be one of my favorites that I’ve also been fortunate enough to meet on two book tours: last summer’s Best Friends Forever tour as well as this year’s Fly Away Home tour.

As a Washington, D.C. area local, it seems all too familiar. The tale of the wandering politician. The one who thinks the rules don’t apply to him, who indulges in temptation and his selfish desires, and who ultimately ends up making a public statement of apology with his disgraced wife standing by his side. Yet it’s rare that we get an inside glimpse at the wife and family’s views. The ones who were betrayed and shamed in public. The ones who have to figure out what to do with their lives and how to protect each other from public opinion and interest.

Jennifer Weiner does just this in her newest novel. Exploring “the family side” of the typical political scandal, we follow Sylvie (the scorned wife), Diana (the over-achieving and ‘perfect’ oldest), and Lizzie (the younger, more rebellious child.) Told from all three points of views (which is one of the things I love most about Weiner’s novels- you get more than one side of the story!), other trials rise in every character’s life. From work to parenting to relationships to family, there is so much going on in Fly Away Home, I never lost interest! (Though to be fair, I’ve never lost interest in a Weiner novel.)

Written with the author’s usual humor and wit, you’ll laugh out loud with these women. You’ll root for them as individuals and as a family as they try to piece back together their lives after their world(s) are turned upside down. Each one has her own desires, her own passions, and her own relationships to reconcile. And I think this book definitely leaves some doors open for a sequel.

I can say I’m happy with the ending, however I do find myself wondering what happens next for Diana and Lizzie! Particularly Diana. Both of their stories and lives were so interesting and, a couple of times, unpredictable. (Maybe we will find out in an upcoming sequel…?) Either way, Fly Away Home, is another fantastic Jennifer Weiner novel that will leave you considering your family and appreciating them all the more. After all, isn’t family what it’s all about?

Congrats to Jen on signing a four year-four book deal with her publisher! I’m looking forward to meeting new characters and seeing you on tour again! Thanks for supporting our blog after your stop in the D.C.-area. Enjoy the rest of those cupcakes this summer! 😉

5/5 stars.

Happy Reading,
Fabookulous

Up next for Fabookulous:

Seven Year Switch by Claire Cook


 

Cupcakes, friends, and Weiner! Oh My! July 15, 2010

Rewind! As you know if you follow this blog, Jennifer Weiner (pronounced WHY-ner) is one of our most favorite authors. She’s adorable, hilarious and approachable. I owe my love for Weiner to one of my best friends, Heather, who lives out-of-town. Heather got me hooked on Jennifer Weiner’s writing a few years ago. My gal pals, Fabookulous included, were hooked too!  We had the chance to meet Weiner last summer when she toured in our area where I also sparked a new friendship with another one of my besties, Planet Books! For Heather’s birthday last year, I gifted her with a copy of Best Friends Forever (how apropos?!) signed with a special birthday message from Weiner! We vowed that next time Weiner came to our area, Heather would be in tow. As luck would have it, Heather was planning a summer visit to stay with my husband and I this July so we could celebrate her early birthday together! We booked this on the calendar about six months ago. One fine day, Fabookulous sends me the serendipitous news that Weiner’s summer book tour stop in our town fell during Heather’s visit to us!

The stars aligned and we had such an amazing evening tonight, all together!  Oh and unless you live under a rock, you know that cupcakes are the latest craze all over the place, especially on the east coast. So as a perk for going to Weiner’s author event, she’s had each city’s best cupcakery cater cupcakes for the entire audience! After a quick dinner, we settled in to an evening of cupcakes (courtesy of Georgetown Cupcake), best friends AND Jennifer Weiner!!! What more could a girl ask for? Well, one of my other favorite author friends, Sarah Pekkanen, jet-lagged and all from her whirlwind European tour came by at the end. I was so glad to introduce her to my friends who enjoyed her novel, The Opposite of Me, as well! What a two-fer!

As usual, Weiner was dynamic, witty, and personable. She even gave Heather a hug and thanked her for coming from such a far distance. It was a truly magical evening getting to share so many wonderful things with so many wonderful people. When it was my turn to have my books signed, I asked Weiner how she ‘unplugs’ from all the distractions of Facebook, Twitter, email, blogging, writing…oh and being a wife and mother! She said that reading is her escape and an outlet for unwinding. I really enjoyed hearing that and could relate 100%!

Jennifer, we’re some of your biggest fans and we are so thankful that authors like you take time to connect with your fans the way you do. If you ever get the opportunity to attend one of Weiner or Pekkanen’s events, I highly recommend it! Thanks again to my wonderful friends who made the night the even yummier icing on the already delicious cupcake! I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, I have THE most wonderful friends a girl could ever ask for. Ladies, I’ll be your den mother any day of the week! *mwah*

Off to tend to my out-0f-town guests. We’re looking forward to our relaxing pool day tomorrow and Heather’s (early) birthday party Saturday! Back to your regularly scheduled programming. This bookworm is ZONKED. Over and out!

xo♥xo,

LibraryLove


 

Book #32 LibraryLove June 10, 2010

Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin

Book description~ Tessa Russo is the mother of two young children and the wife of a renowned pediatric surgeon. Despite her mother’s warnings, Tessa has recently given up her career to focus on her family and the pursuit of domestic happiness. From the outside, she seems destined to live a charmed life. Valerie Anderson is an attorney and single mother to six-year-old Charlie—a boy who has never known his father. After too many disappointments, she has given up on romance—and even, to some degree, friendships—believing that it is always safer not to expect too much. Although both women live in the same Boston suburb, the two have relatively little in common aside from a fierce love for their children. But one night, a tragic accident causes their lives to converge in ways no one could have imagined. Emily Giffin creates a moving, luminous story of good people caught in untenable circumstances. Each being tested in ways they never thought possible. Each questioning everything they once believed. And each ultimately discovering what truly matters most.

Having read each of Emily Giffin’s previous novels, I couldn’t help but have extremely high expectations of her latest release, Heart of the Matter. I met Giffin during her summer tour with some of my best girlfriends beside me. At her event, Giffin was endearing, hilarious, and so accessible as a wife and mother of three small children.

HOM stresses the importance of life’s subtle nuances and hammers home the idea of not taking life for granted, especially for Tessa and Valerie, whose lives intertwine as a result of a tragic accident and an even more tragic circumstance. Tessa’s husband, a top surgeon, is married to his job and must leave her side when his pager beeps to go tend to another family.  Valerie is a single mother struggling to give her son the life he deserves. Early on, the book draws you in as the character development begins. I was right there with Tessa, the eternal optimist, as the daily minutiae set in of such things as what snacks to pack for her child’s classmates and gossip around the school. It is while Tessa’s friend April shares the latest town gossip, that Valerie and Tessa’s stories become interconnected. I was still 100% on board until I predicted the outcome 100 pages into the 350+ page novel. The book was not only a bit too formulaic for me, but the subject matter is one that disgusts me. If you’ve read Something Borrowed, you know exactly what I’m talking about. And although it was bad in SoBo, what unfolds about 200 pages in to HOM is despicable. Every book needs a protagonist, a villain, I get that. But the situation in SoBo didn’t involve a married couple. Nick, Tessa’s husband, is so quietly self-contained that Tessa’s mother’s frenetic ways basically give away the plot early on, picking at their marriage and creating an aire of doubt within the reader, making it tough to fully commit to connecting with Valerie and Nick’s characters, knowing what’s to come. I just couldn’t help but feel like this story was one that was told 1,000 times before. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Giffin’s writing style, so conversational. But pair the awful subject matter, which is completely unoriginal, with the way this book was constructed and it just went off the deep end for me. The story is written in Tessa’s first person POV and then switches back and forth between Valerie’s third person POV. I would have liked this book better if, as the reader, we could’ve been inside Valerie’s head too. Authors make very specific choices for a reason. The next time I get the chance to chat with Giffin, I’d like to ask her why she constructed the book this way. If you happen to know, please drop me a comment and let me know why you think it was done. I’ve seen it done before and it worked from authors like Jennifer Weiner, Jodi Picoult, and Anita Shreve; I just didn’t feel it this time. I’m sure she had a great reason and I’d love to find out what it is.  Regardless, Something Borrowed and Something Blue will still remain intact as my two favorite Giffin novels so far.

I look forward to hearing what my fellow book club babes think of HOM when we discuss next weekend.

While you’re here, make sure to enter our Second Sizzlin’ Summer Giveaway for your chance to win a copy of Beth Hoffman’s awesome novel, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt!

3/5 stars

32 down, 20 to go!

In progress- Wildwater Walking Club

Xo♥xo,

LibraryLove


 

Book #28: LibraryLove May 24, 2010

Traveling With Pomegranates: A Mother Daughter Story by Sue Monk Kidd & Ann Taylor Kidd

Book description~ Between 1998 and 2000, Sue and Ann traveled together to sacred sites throughout Greece and France. Sue, feeling her years and longing to reconnect with her daughter, struggles to find the wherewithal to enlarge a vision of swarming bees into a novel, that will become her bestseller, The Secret Life of Bees. Ann, just graduated from college, heartbroken and facing her future, grapples with a painful depression.

I’ve recently read a number of novels that flip back and forth from one character, in first person, to the next. It’s an interesting literary choice done EXTREMELY well by authors like Jodi Picoult (think My Sister’s Keeper, House Rules) and Jennifer Weiner (think Little Earthquakes). This book is the first memoir I’ve read where, as the reader, we hear both first-hand accounts of the two main characters. Usually, authors select to write one character in first-person narrative and the rest in third-person.
This memoir tells the story of a very tumultuous time for mother and daughter, Sue & Ann. Both ladies allow us direct access into the eye of their most vulnerable storms. The mother and daughter pair venture on a fantastic trip to Greece and through Europe after Ann’s graduation. We are introduced to Sue who is struggling with getting older and finding purpose, now that her daughter is graduating. Sue feels all alone. Then we are introduced to her daughter, Ann, who is struggling with getting older and finding purpose now that she is graduating and moving on in her life. Dramatic irony- most certainly! 😉 In the beginning, Ann is very silent about her depression. She doesn’t get accepted to the Graduate school she wanted to and is sent into a tailspin to figure out what direction her life should go in.

She eventually decides she has such a passion for writing that she cannot deny. Sue struggles to find the inspiration she needs for her idea to write a novel about bees. I was initially drawn to this book because of my enjoyment of her bestselling novel, The Secret Life of Bees. I saw this was a memoir and was curious to learn about Sue’s impetus behind writing that novel, which was written as a result of this life-changing and inspiring trip Sue took with Ann back in 1998. The parts of this book that I enjoyed the most were about how Sue’s creative process grew so organically, to form one of my all time favorite pieces of southern fiction.

Along their journey through Greece and Europe, Sue and Ann discover a new found appreciation for each other. They confide in each other and draw strength from the other’s struggle.

“At times it seemed beyond weird that we’d lived in the same house during those years- I’d known so little about what she’d struggled with inside. There had been hints- bits of conversation, or the piles of feminist theology books that were suddenly in the house. But mostly I knew her as my mother- the one who stayed up to decorate my Raggedy Ann birthday cake, who helped me pick out my cotillion dress, who taught me how to parallel park. I glimpsed her, for the first time, as a woman, like one of those beautiful Caryatids she’s standing with now,”~ Ann, speaking of her mother, Sue.

“For one elongated minute we sit there and listen to rain pelt the roof. The closeness we discovered in Greece seemed to solidify during the fall. We talked endlessly about the experiences we’d had, pored over our trip photographs, and picked up the conversations we started over there,”~ Sue, speaking of her daughter, Ann.

Unfortunately, I found myself wanting to rush through many of Sue’s chapters because she insisted upon including numerous Greek mythological tangents. I found the self-indulgence unnecessary to the story, lecture-ish and along the lines of a historical textbook, not a memoir. Sue’s writing style in this particular selection didn’t keep my interest as much. It was harder for me to relate to a menopausal woman’s struggles, something I’ve yet to experience, whereas Ann’s story I really enjoyed, as she is closer to my age.  I enjoyed the beautiful imagery of Greece and to hear the development of The Secret Life of Bees’ plotline. It’s also a nice reminder that we should be kinder, sweeter, and more understanding of the silent struggles we, our friends, and our mothers face on a daily basis. It is a good reminder to maybe check in with the women in your life in a different way- refocus conversations to real matters of the heart rather than just getting caught up in the minutiae of daily life. For Ann especially, their trip to Europe was a gift- the opportunity to re-acquaint herself with the person who baked her birthday cakes and sewed her buttons back on…

3/5 stars

28 down, 24 to go!

Xo♥xo,

LibraryLove

 

Book #18 LibraryLove March 21, 2010

The Opposite of Me by Sarah Pekkanen

Book description~ Twenty-nine year old Lindsey Rose has always lived in the shadow of her devastatingly beautiful fraternal twin sister, Alex. Determined to get noticed, Lindsey is finally on the cusp of being named Creative Vice President of an elite New York advertising agency, after years of 80 plus-hour weeks, migraines, and profound loneliness. But during the course of one devastating night, Lindsey’s carefully-constructed life implodes. Humiliated and desperate, she flees the glitter of Manhattan and retreats to the time warp of her parents’ Maryland home. As her sister plans her lavish wedding to her prince charming, Lindsey struggles to maintain her identity as the smart, responsible twin, while she furtively tries to put her career back together. But things get more complicated when a long-held family secret is unleashed that forces both sisters to reconsider who they are and who they are meant to be.

Honey on popcorn and the champagne chagrin. Be sure to ’86 the tart lingonberries at the Ikea discount breakfast! From page one I was hooked and couldn’t put this book down.  I literally laughed OUT loud before chapter two! I often criticize books AND movies for not ‘hooking’ me soon enough. I absolutely cannot say that about The Opposite of Me.  I was so jealous of my friends who had a clear schedule to devour this book the day it came out in print. Unfortunately, I had to wait to start this, the book I’ve been waiting since July 2009 to read!!! I was in the middle of reading/reviewing another book when Pekkanen’s debut novel became available in print! Despite my body telling me otherwise, I sacrificed sleep because I could not WAIT to see what happened to Lindsey on her trek back home.

Pekkanen’s novel, The Opposite of Me, is the story of solidarity in family, and how things that separate us, often bring us back to one another, despite our attempts at the contrary.  In the book we follow Lindsey and Alex, two sisters who at first, perceive themselves as complete opposites (hence the title, har har). As the story unfolded, at least for me, it became a tale about two sisters who couldn’t be more similar. Yes, yes, I KNOW that is contrary to the title- it’s called dramatic irony, folks! You have to read to find out 🙂

“Have you ever felt like a stranger in your own skin?” Lindsey asks. I loved pondering Lindsey’s question as the story unfolded.  I won’t spoil the twists and turns because you will LOVE navigating them on your own. But I loved the rich character development and internal conflict Lindsey dealt with, as she felt like the ugly duckling in the shadows of her stunning sister Alex, until things shifted unexpectedly. Pekkanen does such an artful job of crafting the characters, their struggles, and drawing the reader in with multiple parallels and peaks of rising action throughout the story.  I felt like I was following along on  “Lindsey-cam”  the whole way through, seeing and feeling life through Lindsey’s eyes, as it unfolded for her AND me. I especially cringed/laughed at the OH SO EMBARRASSING scene where Lindsey’s eyes squint open to adjust to the light and standing right in front of her is…Mr. Dunne!! I laughed while simultaneously cringing in embarrassment for her! I cannot IMAGINE how small I would feel in her shoes at that moment!! I especially loved the scene at Tony & Joe’s that Lindsey facilitated for her ‘new friend’. It reminded me of a scene from Pattie Stanger’s Millionaire Matchmaker. Loved every moment!

A few of the other highlights for me- Lindsey’s ‘Clark Kent’ quick convenience store changes, going for the Hail Mary w/ the rooftop picnic and its awkwardness setting in, and Lindsey’s magic 8-ball manhunt then stumbling upon some interesting new  information that further cemented Lindsey’s perception that she and Alex really didn’t know each other at all…or did they?

I just HAD to know why the MRI tech was making the sign of the cross,  and cried at the moment of stark florescence of the MVA’s  lights on Alex’s head.  I couldn’t read fast enough, but wanted to pace myself and enjoy each moment. I loved Lindsey’s strength in helping build Alex up. I loved Alex’s strength in helping build Lindsey up.  Right before the reader’s eye, it becomes clear that Lindsey is that brown chipped and painted brick wall of the fixer upper- she’s just waiting for the right person to nurture, restore, and appreciate her. Who knew pizza men could be so dang charming?? 😉

Friends who I recommended this book to were glued to the pages. I received harried texts along the way because the suspense was agonizingly delicious!

I’m sad this book is over and feel the need to share plain bagels and ginger ale with my sister. I am so honored to call such a talented author, Sarah Pekkanen, my friend. She was featured in People magazine with a fantastic review. Jennifer Weiner gave her the ‘Golden Touch’ by being one of her biggest outward supporters. I was bursting with excitement at Sarah’s debut book signing event and after party. I’m just bummed that I have to wait ANOTHER year for her next novel 😉

Run, don’t walk, to your nearest bookish establishment and buy your copy of The Opposite of Me today! Oh and then take 2-3 days off and clear your calendar so you can read this without interruption! Sarah, cheers to you and all of your success as your book goes back to print after just ONE week! You’re a rock star. I am so thrilled to be on this ride supporting you every step of the way. Three final words: Roadtrip to Philly!

5/5 stars

18 down, 34 to go!

In progress, The Happiness Project

Xoxo,

LibraryLove

 

Sarah Pekkanen’s Book Signing:: The Opposite of Me :: March 10, 2010

It’s not everyday your friend becomes a published novelist. Wouldn’t ya know that yesterday WAS one of those days??

The Opposite of Me, Sarah Pekkanen’s debut novel, was FINALLY out in publication yesterday after months and months of anticipation. As some of her biggest fans, we of course arrived as early as possible to be front and center, showing our support and love.

The girls and I grabbed dinner to-go from Cosi and arrived before the chairs were even set up. I have no shame and as “the stealthy room mom” we set up our makeshift carpet picnic in the middle of the kid’s section of the book store, where the reading would eventually take place, to save our spot. The room started to fill and Sarah came out about a  half hour before the reading to mill around and visit with her guests. Sarah grew up in the area and we knew it’d be a packed house with all her friends, family and supporters! 

While the girls went upstairs to buy their books, I had some really nice quality time to chat with Sarah (although I was sad they missed our convo). I shared how amazed I was that Jennifer Weiner, one of my all time favorite novelists, was so supportive of Sarah’s novel- giving her the Golden Touch (think Oprah to Rachael Ray). I asked her if she’d thought about doing a co-tour with Jennifer Weiner? Or thought of teaming up on some east coast dates? I expressed how much my friends and I would JUMP at the opportunity to attend a joint charity women’s tea/brunch/lunch if both ladies were to host a round table discussion on being a modern woman in the writing industry. She loved the idea and I look forward to our “Roadtrip to Philly” to come to fruition! 😉 What a dream come true for Sarah! I adore Sarah’s approachability and down to earth nature. She’s easy going, sweet, and opened the floor up for questions for the good part of 30 minutes last night at the reading. I’ve never heard so many great questions asked from an audience. I especially loved hearing Sarah’s endearing responses and learning about the writing process (from both a business and creative perspective). As a wife and mother of 3 sons, I’m amazed at how well Sarah balances all the hats she wears and her drive and comic timing inspire me. After the signing, we headed over to Parker’s for the after-party celebration and so Sarah could get that LONG OVERDUE Chocolate-tini!

We surprised her with a handmade card (thank you Planetbooks!) and a bottle of our ‘special’ champagne. Sarah’s husband, Glenn Reynolds, was so sweet to come over and chat with us while Sarah mingled with her other guests. As the night went on and folks were gradually making their way home, we stuck around. We planned ahead for a late night on purpose.  We wanted some quality time to really chat with Sarah and show our support and love for her but one-on-one. Her FIRST book signing for her FIRST novel obviously is a once in a lifetime occurrence. These events are like weddings- you want to make your rounds and say thank you to everyone. We honestly didn’t expect to have as much one-on-one time with Sarah as we did (although we were hopeful)! It just truly touched us that Sarah and Glenn gave so much of their evening to us. We all went home feeling like we were floating on a cloud. I woke up with the same feeling this morning. I cannot say enough how gentle, kind, sweet and just downright adorable Sarah is! She invited us to join her on that  road trip to Philly and I just cannot wait to watch all the success unfold for Sarah Pekkanen.  I hope you will pick up a copy of The Opposite of Me! And don’t forget to check out this week’s People Magazine for the review of The Opposite of Me! Looking forward to joining Glenn in Sarah’s cheering section for many years to come.

Sarah, from the bottom of my heart, I could not be more excited and proud to witness your moment in the spotlight.

And for goodness sake, PLEASE set some time aside with your adorable hubby Glenn to enjoy that champagne.

You deserve it.

All my love and support,

xoxo,

LibraryLove

PS- Special thanks to Planetbooks and Amy for making the

night even more special because we shared it together.


 

Breakout Author’s Spotlight:: Sarah Pekkanen:: February 20, 2010

Are you a fan of authors like Jennifer Weiner and Emily Giffin?

Do you love quick whitted and down to earth authors?

If the answer is yes to any of the above, you will ADORE Sarah Pekkanen! Major congratulations are in order for my friend’s brand new breakout novel, The Opposite of Me, in stores March 9th, 2010.

Please check out Sarah’s Website for more information on her book, tour dates, and to sign up for her hysterical monthly newsletter. Oh, and email Lorne Michels and tell him you want to see Sarah on Saturday Night Live 😉

Sarah Pekkanen’s work has been published in People, The Washington Post, USA Today, The New Republic, The Baltimore Sun, Reader’s Digest, and Washingtonian, among others. She writes a monthly Erma Bombeck type column for Bethesda Magazine, and has been an on-air contributor to NPR and E! Entertainment’s “Gossip Show.” She is the winner of a Dateline award and the Paul Miller Reporting Fellowship. Sarah lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland with her husband and three young sons. ~Simon & Schuster

Other Sarah Pekkanen News:

Publisher’s Weekly Deals, 07/21/08
http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6579803.html?industryid=47146
A first novel by Sarah Pekkanen titled The Opposite of Me; Victoria Sanders sold world English rights. Pekkanen, a monthly columnist for Bethesda magazine, will, tongue in cheek, explore low self-esteem, the hunger to succeed and have it all, and the grueling but rewarding bond of sisterhood. Pekannen’s work has been published in a host of newspapers and magazines. Pub date is early 2010.

Bethesda Magazine

Other clippings

“Rookie reporter scoops the big guys on Collins,” Detroit Journal
http://www.forensic-intelligence.org/corrupt/10rookie14.htm

Xoxo, LibraryLove

PS- Special thanks to my dear friend PlanetBooks for introducing me to

Sarah, who is so whitty, our facebook conversations crack me up everytime!