Friday, October 20, 2017

Review: The It Girls

The It Girls
Karen Harper
Expected publication date: October 24, 2017

One sailed the Titanic and started a fashion empire . . .

The other overtook Hollywood and scandalized the world . . .

Together, they were unstoppable.

They rose from genteel poverty, two beautiful sisters, ambitious, witty, seductive. Elinor and Lucy Sutherland are at once each other’s fiercest supporters and most vicious critics.

Lucy transformed herself into Lucile, the daring fashion designer who revolutionized the industry with her flirtatious gowns and brazen self-promotion. And when she married Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon her life seemed to be a fairy tale. But success came at many costs—to her marriage and to her children . . . and then came the fateful night of April 14, 1912 and the scandal that followed.

Elinor’s novels titillate readers, and it’s even asked in polite drawing rooms if you would like to “sin with Elinor Glyn?” Her work pushes the boundaries of what’s acceptable; her foray into the glittering new world of Hollywood turns her into a world-wide phenomenon. But although she writes of passion, the true love she longs for eludes her.

But despite quarrels and misunderstandings, distance and destiny, there is no bond stronger than that of the two sisters—confidants, friends, rivals and the two “It Girls” of their day.- from Goodreads
I received an ARC for free through Goodreads Giveaways.

The It Girls tells the story of sisters Elinor Glyn, a boundary-pushing writer, and Lucille Duff-Gordon, a fashion pioneer, from their days as young girls on the brink of poverty through the success of their later years.  I expected a good historical fiction story, but the book lost me along the way.

The sisters are at the heart of this book, and their relationship was not an easy one.  At times, they were totally supportive of each other and stood up for one another through scandals; other times they were jealous of each other and argumentative, sometimes not seeing each other for years at a time.  I wanted a bit more interaction between Elinor and Lucille, but they each lead such interesting lives on their own that I could almost forgive this.  The biggest thing I knew about Lucille Duff-Gordon before reading this book was the scandal that erupted after the sinking of the Titanic, in which she and her husband were accused of bribing ship employees to not take more survivors onto their lifeboat, but I learned that both she and Elinor had many personal and professional successes and failures.

The writing is good, not great, but it's the dialogue that really hampered my reading experience.  It's cringe-worthy at times: totally too descriptive and too much telling rather than showing.  It's just not how real people talk; I think at times the author was using dialogue to fill the reader in on what happened during time gaps or to give more information, but it was hard to read.

The book covers several decades, so I expected that not everything could be covered in great detail.  However, sometimes several years pass with no warning.  For example, Lucille's daughter goes from a newborn to 7 years old in one turn of the page.  At the same time, I often felt that there was too much information.  It's obvious that Harper did extensive research on the sisters, but the inclusion of several random anecdotes made me wish she had been more discerning about what she chose to feature in the book.  These anecdotes didn't move the story forward in any way and weren't connected to anything else; they could have been left out without any effect on the story.

2.5 stars

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Review: Expelled

James Patterson and Emily Raymond
Expected publication date: October 23, 2017
A secret Twitter account
An anonymous photo
Everyone is a suspect

Will Foster's Twitter account used to be anonymous--until someone posted The Photo that got him and three other students expelled, their futures ruined forever. But who took the picture, and why are they being targeted?

To uncover the truth, Will gets close to the suspects: the hacker, the quarterback, the bad girl, the class clown, the vice principal, and...his own best friend. What secrets are they hiding, and even worse--what do they know about each other? The terrible truth will haunt them forever.

New York Times bestselling author James Patterson brings us another fast-moving tale of suspense, with danger, romance, and twists and turns that will keep you guessing to the very last page. - from Goodreads
I received an ARC of this book for free through Goodreads Giveaways.

It's books like this that make me glad I'm not in high school anymore!  I didn't even go to high school that long ago, but we didn't have all these social media issues like the ones in Expelled.  A crude photo of some students is posted on Theo's (it says the MC's name is Will in the blurb, but in my ARC, it's Theo) Twitter account, and because of the school's zero tolerance policy, Theo and the identified students in the picture are all expelled.  But Theo knows he's innocent, and he wants to prove it.

Patterson and Raymond have created a group of students that may seem at first glance like typical high school cliches, but they become much more than that as the book goes on.  Theo is kind of an average kid - he gets decent grades and he sometimes writes for the school paper, but he's dealing with a lot in his home life.  His best friend Jude is an artist, Parker is a jock with a huge secret, and Sasha is a tough girl.  I thought the authors did a great job in creating these distinct characters and actually making them realistic - they act and talk like real teenagers (although Sasha can get a bit pretentious at times).

Theo has the idea to prove his innocence by making a film, questioning his "suspects" and others in order to find out what really happened and why the picture was uploaded to his Twitter feed.  I guess he wanted proof on camera, but this plot device didn't work so well for me.

In any event, what Theo discovers in his investigation was actually not what I was expecting.  I appreciated that the authors tied in bigger issues and questions about doing what is right versus doing what is popular.  However, the book dragged on a bit after this revelation, and one big bombshell right at the end of the book was completely unnecessary, in my opinion.  In a book with a lot of heavy topics, that one felt like overkill.  Overall, though, I thought this was a quick-moving, well-written story.

4 stars

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Can't-Wait Wednesday: The Glamorous Dead

Can't-Wait Wednesday is hosted by Wishful Endings and helps us spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!

The Glamorous Dead
Suzanne Gates
Expected publication date: October 31, 2017
Set in the dream factory of the 1940s, this glittering debut novel follows a young Hollywood hopeful into a star-studded web of scandal, celebrity, and murder . . .
The chipped pink nail polish is a dead giveaway--no pun intended. But when a human thumb is discovered near a Hollywood nightclub, it doesn't take long for the police to identify its owner. Miss Penny Harp would recognize that pink anywhere: it belongs to her best friend, Rosemary. And so does the rest of the body buried beneath it. Rosemary, with the beauty and talent, who stood out from all other extras on the Paramount lot. She was the one whose name was destined for a movie marquee--not for the obituaries. And for an extra twist, now an LAPD detective thinks Penny is the one who killed her . .
Penny is determined to prove her innocence--with a little help from an unlikely ally, the world-famous queen of film noir, Barbara Stanwyck. Penny met "Stany" on the set of Paramount's classic comedy The Lady Eve, where the star took an instant liking to her. With Stany's powerful connections and no-nonsense style, she has no trouble following clues out of the studio backlot, from the Los Angeles morgue to the Zanzibar Room to the dark, winding streets of Beverly Hills. But there's something Penny isn't telling her famous partner in crimesolving: a not-so-glamorous secret that could lead them to Rosemary's killer--or send Penny to the electric chair . . . - from Goodreads
This sounds like a really fun mystery, and I love the 1940s Hollywood setting!

Monday, October 16, 2017

TV Shows I'm Obsessed With Lately #3

The Bold Type is such a fun show about three young women who work for a Cosmo-like magazine - one is a secretary, one is a social media coordinator, and one is a writer.  It's pretty cool to see some behind-the-scenes stuff about how magazines are run, and of course, there's always lots of personal drama as well!

Based on a novel by James Patterson, Zoo is about a group of people who investigate an outbreak of violent animal attacks around the globe.  We've been binge-watching the first two seasons on Netflix and, yeah, it gets a little outlandish at times, but it's so addictive!

It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of disaster stories, so when I heard about this summer series about an asteroid heading towards earth, I knew I had to watch it.  Government conspiracies, shady reporters, and confusing science abound - but if you suspend disbelief for awhile, it's actually a pretty fun show!

Are you watching any of these shows?  What have you been watching lately?

Friday, October 13, 2017

Review: The Summer House

The Summer House
Hannah McKinnon
Published June 6, 2017
Flossy Merrill has managed to—somewhat begrudgingly—gather her three ungrateful grown children from their dysfunctional lives for a summer reunion at the family’s Rhode Island beach house. Clementine, her youngest child and a young mother of two small children, has caused Flossy the most worry after enduring a tragically life-altering year. But Samuel and his partner Evan are not far behind in their ability to alarm: their prospective adoption search has just taken a heart-wrenching turn. Only Paige, the eldest of the headstrong Merrill clan, is her usual self: arriving precisely on time with her well-adapted teens. Little does her family know that she, too, is facing personal struggles of her own.

No matter. With her family finally congregated under one seaside roof, Flossy is determined to steer her family back on course even as she prepares to reveal the fate of the summer house that everyone has thus far taken for granted: she’s selling it. The Merrill children are both shocked and outraged and each returns to memories of their childhoods at their once beloved summer house—the house where they have not only grown up, but from which they have grown away. With each lost in their respective heartaches, Clementine, Samuel, and Paige will be forced to reconsider what really matters before they all say goodbye to a house that not only defined their summers, but, ultimately, the ways in which they define themselves.- from Goodreads
Two words kept popping into my mind as I read The Summer House: relatable and nostalgic.  Flossy and Richard have invited their grown children, Paige, Sam, and Clem, to their summer house in Rhode Island to celebrate Richard's 75th birthday.  What their children don't know yet is that Flossy and Richard are planning to sell the house their family has spent generations vacationing at.

The first thing I could relate to in this book is the trouble with trying to get a lot of people together for a vacation.  In my family, sometimes we start planning a year in advance, making sure everyone can get their work and personal schedules coordinated.  It can be hard to get everyone together - people have a lot going on.  I thought Flossy was a bit hard on her kids, getting angry with them because no one had visited the shore house the previous summer.  But Clem had just lost her husband; Sam and his husband Evan are trying to adopt a baby; and Paige has a growing vet practice and some tension with her husband and teenage daughter.

The second thing I related to was the sibling relationships.  The bonds between Sam, Paige, and Clem felt so real - siblings can be best friends or worst enemies.  They know each other so well and they know what buttons to push. 

As I read this book, it brought back memories of visiting my grandparents at the shore: packing up all our stuff - snacks, chairs, and umbrellas - and dragging it to the beach.  The Merrill family has their own traditions that they lovingly follow each time they visit the summer house, like the first visit to the beach and going for a ice cream and a ride on the carousel.  No matter how long it has been since their last visit, they still follow their traditions, and these parts of the book brought out a feeling of nostalgia for me.

The beachy setting was so well-established in this book.  I felt like I was right there with the Merrill clan, smelling the salty ocean breeze, feeling the warm sand, eating the fresh seafood.  The story was very character-driven, and I loved getting to know all the members of the family.

So - this review seems a bit different from my normal reviews, but that's because this book felt like taking a walk down memory lane for me.  If you enjoy stories about families and have fond memories of your own childhood beach vacations, I think you'll love this book!

4 stars

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Unqualified

Can't-Wait Wednesday is hosted by Wishful Endings and helps us spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!

Anna Faris
Expected publication date: October 24, 2017
Anna Faris has advice for you. And it's great advice, because she's been through it all, and she wants to tell you what she's learned. Her comic memoir and first book, Unqualified, will share Anna's candid, sympathetic, and entertaining stories of love lost and won. Part memoir, part humorous, unflinching advice from her hit podcast Anna Faris Is Unqualified, the book will reveal Anna's unique take on how to navigate the bizarre, chaotic, and worthwhile adventure of finding love.

Hilarious, authentic, and actually useful, Unqualified is the book Anna's fans have been waiting for. - from Goodreads
Anna Faris has been one of my favorite actresses for a long time.  She's hilarious but she also seems really down-to-earth.  And I have to admit, I was a bit upset when she and Chris Pratt announced they were separating!  I'm looking forward to seeing what she has to say in her memoir.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Fall-Themed Covers

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish.  This week's topic is books with fall/autumn covers or themes.  Since I love fall and I'm a cover snob, I decided to make a collage of fall-themed covers.  This was surprisingly a bit difficult!  In the end, I found some covers that featured the red and orange colors of fall, some covers with leaves or fall landscapes, and even one with some seasonal fruit!

What are some of your favorite fall-themed book covers?