Showing posts with label emily giffin. Show all posts
Showing posts with label emily giffin. Show all posts

Friday, August 5, 2016

August Mini-Reviews

It's Mini Review time again!  My streak of good novels continues--it's certainly been a wonderful summer for reading.  A bit o' popular fiction to share with you this time around:

First Comes Love by Emily Giffin
Ballatine, 2016
ARC received from the publisher for an honest review

In case you've forgotten, I'm a huge Emily Giffin fan, and fully ADORED her last release (The One & Only).  That put her 2016 novel, First Comes Love, near the top of my must-read list this summer.  However, on the whole I have to say that I liked it, but didn't quite reach "love it" status.  Giffin's usual penchant for relateable, well-rounded characters is still intact--I loved the protagonists, Meredith and Josie, and the fact that they were both so perfectly flawed and quirky.  HOW does Giffin make characters that are both unique and yet have at least one trait that you can totally identify with??  It is a gift, for sure.  This novel is absorbing and involves some interesting discussion topics, but I was unable to get 100% on board when Josie's story got a bit too convoluted and far-fetched for me.  I appreciate Giffin's ability to include lots of gray areas and touchy subjects in her writing, but this one became a bit too hard for me to get behind.  I'd love to discuss with anyone else that has read it!  Overall: worth the read, but just not as outstanding as some of her other work.

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
Viking, 2012
ARC received from the publisher for an honest review

Yeah, take another look at the info above.  An ARC that I received...4 years ago.  OOPS.  Not long after I started the blog, actually, and well before this book's hype flew through the roof.  But even after the good reviews started rolling in, I was a tad skeptical's a romance.  And as I've said so many times before (see: every time I talk about Outlander) I'm not known for loving the romance genre.  However, one of my friends really wanted to see the movie with me, so I figured it was time to finally dive in.
OH LORDY.  THE SADS.  ALL THE SADS.  Please excuse me while I add to the hype, because this book was amazing.  I adored the two protagonists (Lou and Will), and their ever-changing dynamic is what makes this book a home run.  This is not at all a typical romance, but one that will make your wheels turn (it has some interesting moral dilemmas in the mix).  You'll laugh (I love Lou and Will's snappy dialogue), you'll cry, and then you'll do it all again.  The ending is one that I love to hate, and I'm looking forward to checking out the sequel very soon.  Highly recommend!!

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter
William Morrow, 2015
borrowed from the library

This was the latest pick for my MOMS Club book club, and I was intrigued, because I've seen many Karin Slaughter books on the shelves before but had yet to pick one up myself.  My first warning to you is that the description of this book on Goodreads/Amazon/etc does NOT give an accurate idea of how much brutality is involved in the plot.  I've read my fair share of violent novels (hi, Stephen King groupie over here), but Pretty Girls is shockingly graphic in a way that I did not expect going in.  Alley stabbings, serial killing, snuff porn, we really cover all the bases here.  It took me a while to acclimate to that, but once I did, I found myself involved in a thrilling story.
Pretty Girls is impressive as a mystery, a thriller, and a crime drama.  The plot twists were never predictable for me, and even though the book is quite long, it never loses momentum.  The main character (Claire) is the perfect mix of tough heroine and annoying Stepford wife--easy to root for, but just naive enough to drive you insane once in a while.  This whole novel came together for me, which is impressive, given the crazy number of plot elements that Slaughter weaves into the story.
Definitely recommend this one as well--I see that Slaughter has quite a backlist, so I'm sure I'll be checking out more of her work soon!

What are you reading lately, bookish friends?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Well-Read Redhead's Best Books of 2014!

The time has come!  Favorites must be declared!

Today, Month of Favorites participants are jumping in with the Top Ten Tuesday topic over at Broke and the Bookish: Top 10 Favorite Books of the Year.  In keeping with that, I figured there was no better day for me to announce...

The Well-Read Redhead's Best Books of 2014!

If you are a careful reader of my blog (and who isn't, RIGHT?), you may be surprised by some of my choices...and some of my non-choices.  There are books on here that, in my initial review, I enjoyed but maybe wasn't completely gushing over.  And there are books not on the list that I mentioned as potential favorites when I wrote my reviews.  But at the end of the year, when I make this list, I go by what's really stuck with me--after months have passed, what are the books that are still leaving an impression?  Still giving me something to think about?

As in past years, this list is in no particular order, and with links to my original reviews:

1. The Three by Sarah Lotz
I know I said this list is in no particular order, but there might be a reason why this was the first one I threw on here.  I LOVE EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS BOOK.

2. Man V. Nature by Diane Cook
I haven't read a collection of short stories this good in a very, very long time.  I find myself thinking about them a LOT.

3. Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult
Is anyone surprised by me putting a Jodi Picoult novel on this list?  Noooooooooooope.

4. What I Had Before I Had You by Sarah Cornwell
An intricately-woven family drama that explores the many complicated facets of relationships.  Cornwell's ability to smoothly blend several different story angles together still impresses me.

5. Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell
If there was ever a bitch that got shit done without caring what anyone else thought, it was Scarlett O'Hara.

6. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
I know, jump on the bandwagon about a year late, right?  But it's just so, so good.  A major time commitment, but an epic in every sense of the word.

7. Above by Isla Morley
This book is excellent, but it earned a special bump onto this list because it has the distinction of being the book that I have successfully recommended to the most people after reading it.  "Successfully" meaning they raved about it afterwards, too.

8. The One & Only by Emily Giffin
Emily Giffin is pretty much always a winner for me.  I adore her ability to make readers sympathetic to what would normally be the undesirable side of a situation.  Such is the case with The One & Only.

9. The Memory of Love by Linda Olsson
To quote my own review: "complex characters, surprising twists, and intriguing relationships."  Plus beautiful writing to top it all off.

10. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
I read several good YA fiction novels this year, but Wintergirls has the distinction of being the best.  Anderson's writing is beautiful and poignant, and her handling of the topic of eating disorders is equal parts careful and impactful.

That does it for 2014!  In going over everything I read this year, I realized how many excellent books I enjoyed in the last 12 months.  A truly fantastic year for reading!

What made YOUR best-read list for 2014?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Book Review: The One & Only by Emily Giffin

Title: The One & Only
Author: Emily Giffin
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: May 20, 2014
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Summary from Goodreads

Thirty-three-year-old Shea Rigsby has spent her entire life in Walker, Texas—a small college town that lives and dies by football, a passion she unabashedly shares. Raised alongside her best friend, Lucy, the daughter of Walker’s legendary head coach, Clive Carr, Shea was too devoted to her hometown team to leave. Instead she stayed in Walker for college, even taking a job in the university athletic department after graduation, where she has remained for more than a decade.

But when an unexpected tragedy strikes the tight-knit Walker community, Shea’s comfortable world is upended, and she begins to wonder if the life she’s chosen is really enough for her. As she finally gives up her safety net to set out on an unexpected path, Shea discovers unsettling truths about the people and things she has always trusted most—and is forced to confront her deepest desires, fears, and secrets.

My Review:

First, I must note that I adore the plot summary for this book, because it doesn't give away ANYTHING.  Lately I feel like the plot summaries I've been reading are far too detailed.  This one gives you a good feel for the book, without giving away the farm.

You may remember that I really, really, really love Emily Giffin.  Usually I know WAY in advance when her latest book is coming out, but because I most recently live in a mommy cave of oblivion, I didn't find out until a whole month AFTER its release that this book was available.  For shame, me!  Luckily my library got it to me lickity-split, because this was a novel worth devouring.

In keeping with the summary, I don't want to give any spoilers.  However, I will say that this book brought me back to my early love for Giffin's work, forged when I read her first two novels (Something Borrowed and Something Blue).  I was drawn to them because, like a lot of women's fiction, they are steeped in relationship issues, but not in a way that is predictable or mollifying.  Giffin has a way of making you build sympathy for characters who aren't always engaging in the most wholesome behaviors, which takes a lot of skill.  You don't naturally want to cheer on a liar or a cheat, amiright?  But Giffin molds her characters in a way that allows you to see them as more than the sum of their poor choices.  In fact, she makes you question if those choices were really poor at all.

Such is the case with The One & Only.  Shea (our protagonist) stumbles into some rather...complicated relationships.  And believe it or not, I found myself rooting for her to go towards the most inappropriate one of all.  I won't tell you if it comes to fruition or not, but I will say that the suspense along the way is fairly addictive.  Prepare to be glued to your book once things get rolling.

I've read a few reviews that decry Shea as a very one-sided character--nothing but football, football, and more football.  I agree that that is true, but it didn't bother me because I think it was meant to make a point.  Shea has led a pretty sheltered life, and is definitely battling some "daddy issues"...she's afraid to move out of her comfort zone.  Football is her comfort, and that was highlighted a bit heavily, but I believe it's in a way that gives you a better sense of her motives.

Overall, this was another Emily Giffin win for me.  I will say that I did not love the conclusion (we're talking the last 3-4 pages), because I feel like she decided to pull a punch at the last second and wrap up the ending a little too sweetly.  However, given that I was unable to put the book down for the previous 400-ish pages, I'd say this one gets a 99% amazing rating from me.

Any other Emily Giffin fans out there?  Will you be picking up her latest anytime soon?

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Top Ten Words/Topics That Make Me Think INSTA-READ!

I haven't participated in Top Ten Tuesday over at The Broke and The Bookish in quite a while, but I like this week's topic:

Top Ten Words/Topics That Instantly Make You Buy/Pick Up A Book
Any books that fall into these categories are pretty much insta-reads (or at least insta-going-on-the-TBR) for me.  As I made the list, I realized that a lot of it, for me, has to do with wanting to read about things that are relevant specifically to my life.  Does this make me a selfish reader?  If so, I am not ashamed.

1. "The _______'s Wife/Daughter"
Example: The Pilot's Wife by Anita Shreve  
I adore most books with this title structure.  Why?  Perhaps because I am a wife...and a daughter?  Plus, titles like these almost always equate to women's fiction, which I love.

2. Marital Strife
Example: Love The One You're With by Emily Giffin
Okay, this is NOT something I aspire to, but my interest is always piqued by a book with marital strife as a major plot mover.  I like to think it's because my marriage is so blissfully wonderful that I have to look elsewhere to read about such things.  :-)

3. Babies/Pregnancy
Example: A Bump In The Road by Maureen Lipinski
Again, this is completely selfish in nature, but as a mom I love to read about mom-related and baby-related books.  Most of them are written either from a very humorous perspective (I love to laugh at my own mom mistakes, why not others' as well?) or an introspective one (moms muddling through child-rearing and trying to figure it all out).  I enjoy either side.

4. Travel + Humor = Win
Example: Notes From A Small Island by Bill Bryson
I'm a lover of travel.  And travel can be hilarious sometimes.  Miscommunicating in countries where you don't know the language, not knowing local customs, missing connections--these all have the potential to be funny (in hindsight, at least).  A travel memoir that embraces this is a winner.

5. Food-Related Nonfiction
Example: In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan
I've already waxed poetic about food memoirs, but my love extends to all things food-related.  I am a horrible chef, but my stepfather was trained at the Culinary Institute of America, so I harbor a fascination for this area of reading.

6. "Psychological Thriller"
This term is pretty broad, but I think the spirit of Gone Girl captures it fairly well.  The more twisted and unexpected, the better.

7. Zombies
Example: World War Z by Max Brooks
This has absolutely no relation to anything in my life.  I just have a really sick fixation on the zombie apocalypse.  I have an escape and survival plan in place, it involves baseball bats and an Ergo carrier.

8. Female 20-Somethings In Their Post-College Years
I am slowly (gracefully?) exiting the 20-something age group, so perhaps this preference will soon change.  But I always find books in this category to be relatable to some area of my life...either in career building, wedding planning, friend-keeping, etc.

9. Collegiate Setting
What can I say?  I adored all 4 years of my college experience, and now I work at a college.  College settings are very, very familiar to me.

10. Set In/Near My Hometown
Example: I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb
I should basically just say "Wally Lamb novels" because no one else sets their books in southeastern Connecticut.  But if they did, I would totally read them!  No matter what the genre!  SECT in the house, boiiiiiiii.

What do you think, readers?  Do you share any of my preferences?  What are your insta-read topics?

Monday, October 1, 2012

September 2012 in Review

Here's my wrap-up for September...another great reading month!  The blog is definitely keeping me motivated these days.

I read and reviewed 7 books (click links for my reviews):
Sometimes It Snows in America by Marisa Labozzetta
The Confession by John Grisham
The Beach House by Jane Green
Where We Belong by Emily Giffin
A Drink Before The War by Dennis Lehane
Beneath The Glitter by Elle & Blair Fowler
One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey

I also posted a full review for 1 past read:
The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb

And 5 mini reviews of past reads:
Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King
Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk
My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult
The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

Plus, I met Dennis Lehane, and celebrated my anniversary, my birthday, Bloggiesta, and Banned Book Week.  Does it get any better?

I have a lot of good books I'm looking forward to in October--can't wait to share them all with you!  I'm especially trying to find some good spooky reads for Halloween.

What are your favorite Halloween reads?

And don't forget, my Banned Book giveaway is still going!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Audiobook Alert: Where We Belong by Emily Giffin

Hey readers!  Remember the review I did of Emily Giffin's Where We Belong a couple weeks ago?  Well, Macmillan Audio reached out to me this week and let me know that it is also available as an audiobook. They sent me a clip from the first chapter, which you can check out here.

I'm always looking for attention-grabbing audiobooks with good narrators (which this appears to be!), so I thought I'd pass it on.

What are your favorite audiobook recommendations?

Friday, September 21, 2012

Author Stalking

I think all book lovers are also author stalkers, some of the time.

Let's hold up a minute--I am not advocating that you go camp outside Suzanne Collins's bedroom with a pair of binoculars.  Creepers.

What I mean by "author stalking" is this: you've read all (or nearly all) of this particular author's work.  Whenever they release a new novel, you scramble onto Amazon and pre-order it months in advance.  You gobble it up in one sitting on the release date.  And once you finish, you immediately take to Google/Goodreads/etc. on a massive searching expedition to find out when their next novel is going to be released.  (And of course, you devolve into a weepy pile of disappointment when you find out that either a) it's not for another 2 years, or b) there is no news on an upcoming release AT ALL.)

Here are a few of my top authors to stalk, in no particular order.

Jon Krakauer

I don't read a ton of nonfiction, but Krakauer is the KING of nonfiction.  His last book, Where Men Win Glory, is on my favorites-of-all-time list.  Even his short diatribe about Greg Mortensen (Three Cups of Deceit) is a captivating read.  But news of his upcoming ventures are MIA.  I Google search all the time in the hopes of finding something.  I'll be first in line when his next one is announced.

Jodi Picoult

JP is one of my favorite authors.  I know some people aren't that into her work because it does tend to follow a formula ("ripped from the headlines" premise + legal battle + twist ending = novel).  However, I LIKE her formula, and while I don't 5-star all of her books, I love most of them.  She's a fun one to stalk though, because she releases pretty much every March right on schedule, so the only real mystery is what the next topic will be.  (Psst...her 2013 book is called The Storyteller, read more here!)

Audrey Niffenegger

Another book on my favorites-all-time list is The Time Traveler's Wife.  Everyone's heard of that book though--much less attention was given to her second novel, A Fearful Symmetry, which was masterful.  Her novels are such a haunting blend of whimsy, love, and sadness.  She doesn't publish often, which makes stalking difficult, but it sounds like her next book (The Chinchilla Girl in Exile) is going to be interesting...if they ever announce a release date.  Ho-hum.

Emily Giffin

I already reviewed her latest one, Where We Belong , last week.  After every Giffin novel, I'm already searching for the next one.  It's those darn endings; she is a master of the good chick-lit ending!!  Too early for any news on a new one yet, but I'll be waiting.

Stephen King

This is a gimme. What SK fan DOESN'T stalk around for his new release(s)?  And they get so much hype, it's hard not to hear about them anyway.  This is kind of a cheating answer though, because there's so much SK work out there, I can just read one of his past novels to get me through until his new one comes out.  I just found out that Doctor Sleep (the sequel to The Shining) is being released on my 30th birthday (9/24/2013), which I think is a nice present from Mr. King.  The Well-Read Redhead salutes you, sir.

Anita Shreve

The Pilot's Wife?  All-time-faves list.  And I've loved nearly every other Shreve novel I've encountered (other than A Wedding in December, let's just pretend that one doesn't exist).  Her last one, Rescue, was great, but it came out in word of a new one yet...((taps foot)).

So, admit it--what authors do YOU stalk?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Book Review: Where We Belong by Emily Giffin

Title: Where We Belong
Author: Emily Giffin
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Release Date: July 24, 2012
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Summary from Goodreads:

Marian Caldwell is a thirty-six year old television producer, living her dream in New York City. With a fulfilling career and satisfying relationship, she has convinced everyone, including herself, that her life is just as she wants it to be. But one night, Marian answers a knock on the door . . . only to find Kirby Rose, an eighteen-year-old girl with a key to a past that Marian thought she had sealed off forever. From the moment Kirby appears on her doorstep, Marian’s perfectly constructed world—and her very identity—will be shaken to its core, resurrecting ghosts and memories of a passionate young love affair that threaten everything that has come to define her.

For the precocious and determined Kirby, the encounter will spur a process of discovery that ushers her across the threshold of adulthood, forcing her to re-evaluate her family and future in a wise and bittersweet light. As the two women embark on a journey to find the one thing missing in their lives, each will come to recognize that where we belong is often where we least expect to find ourselves—a place that we may have willed ourselves to forget, but that the heart remembers forever.

My Review:

I will start by saying that I have always been a big fan of Emily Giffin's books in the past.  I got hooked on Something Borrowed and Something Blue, and ever since then, as soon as I finish one of her novels, I start Googling around to see if there are any rumors about when her next one is coming out.  I don't give them all 5-star reviews, but I like her writing style and the fact that she's able to write emotionally-charged books that don't always have the cliched happy ending.

That said, I was also recently dismayed by the controversy surrounding Giffin and her husband on Amazon, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't think about that a little as I was reading.  BUT, this review is about the book, NOT that other stuff, and I want to make that clear from the get-go.

SO!  I was drawn into Marian and Kirby's story very quickly.  I know I talk about my mom-perspective a lot, but this book was especially emotional for me because I was constantly thinking about how it would feel to have to give up your child just three days after they were born.  Pre-baby, yes, it still would have been a tough thing to consider.  But now, I was practically in tears picturing it.  Giffin does a good job illustrating the gut-wrenching emotions in this situation for everyone involved--not just Marian and Kirby, but Kirby's adoptive parents, birth father, etc.

I have to say that Kirby was my favorite of the two main characters.  Yes, she's young and directionless, but also mature and unique in a way that she doesn't realize.  I loved the chapters that were told from her perspective.  (And, as a former aspiring girl drummer, I had to admire her musical taste!)  Plus, her humor is refreshing at times, given the serious nature of the issues involved.

However, I had a bit more trouble with Marian.  I never felt like I got a real handle on her.  Sometimes she'd throw off the vibe of the mature and worldly woman who's come to terms with her 18-year-old decision; other times (honestly, most of the time), she just seemed like a shallow snob who thinks she's grown up, but doesn't realize she is still being immature and selfish.  Right up to the end, she continues to claim that she gave Kirby up for adoption because it was the best decision for Kirby, not for her (Marian).  But it seemed pretty obvious to me that Marian's only true reason for giving Kirby up was that she didn't want to screw up her perfect life and future.  If she had kept Kirby, Marian's family had the means to give her a cushy life--but Marian's reputation and career dreams would have changed.  This is never really addressed or resolved in the novel, though the ending made me wonder if Giffin meant it to feel that way.  Either way, it was a point of frustration for me that Marian never really had a true "epiphany".

All that said--I did enjoy that the ending is not what you expect.  As I mentioned above, Giffin is very good at the non-cliche ending, and she continues that streak here.  It might be my favorite thing about her as an author.  Well, that and the way she sneaks in characters from her other books into her current novels.  I was pretty psyched to spot Claudia, Ben, and Jess from Baby Proof (and you even get a bit more info about what happened to Claudia and Ben after the book ended!).  Good stuff!

Overall?  Despite my frustrations about Marian, this was a wonderful book.  This is a touchy subject in many ways, but Giffin expertly handles the emotions and decisions that are involved.  In the end, you have a thoughtful piece of women's fiction (NOT chick lit!) that draws to a satisfying conclusion without tying up every tiny loose end.  I heard it got picked up for a movie deal, so let's see how Hollywood totally ruins it.  Ha!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A quick and dirty survey.

I saw this brief book survey on The Broke and the Bookish today, and I had to repost.  An easy way to give you some insight into my latest reading habits.

The book I'm currently reading: Look Again by Lisa Scottoline.  I saw a brief summary of this book a year or two ago, and have been dying to read it ever since.  Unfortunately, it's not all that I thought it would be, but I have another 100-ish pages for it to change my mind (I'll keep you posted on how that goes). 

I'm also listening to The Confession by John Grisham on audiobook, and it's been an excellent way to spend my commutes these last couple of weeks.

The last book I finished: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman--you saw my happy-customer review here.

The next book I want to read: I am hoping to get my hands on a copy of Emily Giffin's new one, Where We Belong.  I'm a big fan of her other work.  I've been on the library wait list for a while now, I should be up soon!

The last book I boughtCommencement by J. Courtney Sullivan--I do indeed have a professional life in higher education (book bloggin' JUST DON'T PAY), so books about colleges/universities, undergrads, recent grads, etc. always catch my interest (I Am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe is one of my absolute favorites, all-time).  I haven't read this one yet but it's on my Kindle and I'm looking forward to it.

The last book I was given: Left Neglected by Lisa Genova.  Cari gave me this book a few months ago, and it was an excellent recommendation for me.  It's about a high-powered working mom whose life is turned upside down when she is in a terrible car accident, leaving her with a traumatic brain injury.  The physical and emotional changes she goes through in the novel are amazing.  A great read for anyone who loves Jodi-Picoult-style family dramas.
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