Thursday, September 15, 2011

Mini Reviews

I've gotten a little behind on writing book reviews, so here's the nutshell version of what I've been reading lately:
Christmas at Harrington's by Melody Carlson - Christmas is approaching, and Lena Markham finds herself penniless, friendless, and nearly hopeless. She is trying to restart her life after false accusations landed her in prison, but job opportunities are practically nonexistent. When a secondhand red coat unexpectedly lands her a job as Mrs. Santa at a department store, Lena finally thinks her luck is changing. But can she keep her past a secret? (publisher synopsis)

Good lesson on not being judgemental and giving second chances.  Cute, slightly predictable, but fun Christmas story.  And Humbug to all you Scrooges who don't like Christmas books before December.  This was a bargain from Doubleday Book Club and when it arrived, I just couldn't wait.

Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball by Donita K. Paul - Every year, the matchmaking booksellers at Warner, Werner and Wizbotterdad's host an enchanting, old-fashioned Christmas Ball for the romantic matches they’ve decided to bring together.  This year, will Simon and Cora discover a perfect chemistry in their opposite personalities and shared faith? Or will the matchmakers’ best laid plans end up ruining everything this holiday? (publisher's synopsis)

Another bargain buy, this time from the Waldenbook's closeout sale - which, by the way, I found very sad, even while piling up stacks of good finds.  Again, a predictable but enjoyable Christmas romance.  Ms. Paul's characters have strong Christian faith and morals, which are often downplayed even in Christian fiction.  I appreciated her unapologetic commitment to her beliefs and her ability to mix it with a little fantasy - a street of shops visible only to those chosen to attend the ball, magically appearing tickets, and enchanted ball gowns.  

Before I Go To Sleep - by S. J. Watson - Memories - real, false, and a bit of both - are at the heart of British author Watson's haunting, twisted debut. Christine Lucas awakens each morning in London with no idea who she is or why she's in bed with a strange man, until he tells her that his name is Ben and they've been married for 22 years. Slowly, Christine learns that she has amnesia and is unable to remember her past or retain new memories: every night when she falls asleep, the slate is wiped clean. Dr. Nash, her therapist, has encouraged her to write in a journal that she keeps secret from Ben. Christine realizes how truly tangled—and dangerous—her life is after she sees the words "don't trust Ben" written in her journal, whose contents reveal that the only person she can trust is herself. (Publisher's Weekly)

Dave and I read this one together and agreed that it was perfect for a joint read.  There were so many twists and turns that it took both of us to keep them straight.  Christine's memories are completely erased each night when she goes to sleep, then replaced by what she is told by her husband, Ben, and what she reads in the secret journal she has begun keeping.  But we were never sure which was true - or if we could handle the truth.  We slowly pieced the story together along with Christine and realized the unexpected answer at about the same time she did.  Original concept, well executed.

Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus - Wanted: 
One young woman to take care of four-year-old boy. Must be cheerful, enthusiastic and selfless—bordering on masochistic. Must relish sixteen-hour shifts with a deliberately nap-deprived preschooler. Must love getting thrown up on, literally and figuratively, by everyone in his family. Must enjoy the delicious anticipation of ridiculously erratic pay. Mostly, must love being treated like fungus found growing out of employers Herm├Ęs bag. Those who take it personally need not apply.  

Struggling to graduate from NYU and afford her microscopic studio apartment, Nanny takes a position caring for the only son of the wealthy X family. She rapidly learns the insane amount of juggling involved to ensure that a Park Avenue wife who doesn’t work, cook, clean, or raise her own child has a smooth day.

When the X's marriage begins to disintegrate, Nanny ends up involved way beyond the bounds of human decency or good taste. Over nine tense months, Mrs. X and Nanny perform the age-old dance of decorum and power as they test the limits of modern-day servitude. (Publisher's synopsis)
I picked up the audio version of this book at the library based solely on the cover and the fact that it is read by Julia Roberts.  I was vaguely aware that this book existed and had been made into a movie, but my info stopped there.  Turns out I should have paid more attention.  I loved listening to this audio and was rather disappointed when it ended - a large part of which was due to Ms. Roberts' reading/acting skills.  So enthralled was I that, while digging through a bin of bargain books at the grocery store (of all places) and uncovering a $5 copy of the sequel, Nanny Returns, it took great restraint to leave it there and promise myself I would get it at the library.  But when I discovered the library did not have it, I RAN. . . ok, I ran to my car and drove . . . well, actually I walked hastily to my car and drove to the grocery store to get it.

Nanny Returns by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus - After living abroad for twelve years, Nan and her husband have returned to New York to get her new business off the ground and fix up their fixer-upper. To compound the mounting construction woes and marital chaos of Ryan announcing his sudden desire to start a family, sixteen-year-old Grayer X makes a drunken, late-night visit wanting to know why Nan abandoned him all those years ago. Soon she is drawn back into Mrs. X's ever-bizarre Upper East Side conclave of power and privilege in this tale of what happens when a community that chooses money over love finds itself with neither. (Publisher's synopsis)

Sequels are rarely as good as the originals and that holds true here.  As a college student struggling to make ends meet, I understood, at least partially, why Nanny put up with the X's demeaning treatment.  However, ten years later and no longer on the payroll, it was time for Nanny to get a backbone.  Unfortunately, she never really did.  I found that the continual crises in her personal life, business and relationship with the X's, partnered with her noodle-like spine just became frustrating.  Fans of the first book will find this worth their time for some "closure" on Nanny and Grayer's story.  

Citizen Girl by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus - Working in a world where a college degree qualifies her to make photocopies and color-coordinate file folders, twenty-four-year-old Girl is struggling to keep up with the essential trinity of food, shelter, and student loans. So when she finally lands the job of her dreams she ignores her misgivings and concentrates on getting the job done...whatever that may be.
Sharply observed and devastatingly funny, Citizen Girl captures with biting accuracy what it means to be young and female in the new economy. A personal glimpse into an impersonal world, Citizen Girl is edgy and heartfelt, an entertaining read that is startlingly relevant. (publisher's synopsis)
That whole second paragraph?  Not so much.  I'll admit, it's been a while since I was young, and I was about as spineless as they came in those days (I got over it), but I don't believe I would have put up with the treatment this girl received. Perhaps Ms. McLaughlin and Ms. Kraus are stuck on this down-trodden, single-girl heroine, or perhaps it wasn't a good idea to listen to the audio of this book while reading Nanny Returns by the same authors.  The two protagonists began to meld in my mind with absolutely no help from Mr. Spock.  Even then, I enjoyed listening, again anticipating some spinal strengthening, and this time I was rewarded.  

1 comment:

  1. I do want to reant Before I Go to Sleep, but I'll have to see if my hubby will read it with me, LOL! We haven't had the time to do that since Gage was born, not sure when it will happen again!