Get Lucky by Katherine Center

Get Lucky by Katherine Center

Sarah Harper not so accidentally sends a risqué email to her entire company and gets shown the door. She winds up in a last row seat next to an old boyfriend on a plane bound for Houston, her hometown. She stays with her sister Mackie who is also her best friend. Mackie and her husband Clive have tried to have children for years but pregnancy has always ended in miscarriage. Sarah makes an offer that is second only to donating an organ – she offers to be a surrogate. It’s the first part of her plan to make a difference in life, to do more than create successful ad campaigns to sell bras.

Coming home to Houston also presents Sarah with the opportunity to work through a few things from her past: the death of her mother when she was only twelve; the horrible way she broke up with the old boyfriend. She also faces the situation of her father being engaged to Dixie who is completely different from her mother.

As in Everyone Is Beautiful, Katherine Center writes believable characters. Sarah and Mackie reminded me of my relationship with my sisters. We can love them or be mad at them but don’t anyone else say a bad word about them! They would do anything for each other. I really enjoyed Sarah’s perspective as she dealt with her post New York life – how she dealt (or didn’t deal) with pregnancy, being jobless, and being relationship-less. I also loved Dixie. There is a scene involving Dixie and Sarah at a self-defense class that had me laughing out loud. But Dixie becomes much more than a wacky step-mother and is more a person who can shine a light on what is important in life.

I’m not sure if Get Lucky would be considered Women’s Fiction or Chick Lit but I do know if you’re looking for a thoughtful and enjoyable novel about a young woman seeking a happier, more meaningful life, you should read Get Lucky.

Review copy from Ballantine Books via LibraryThing Early Reviewers

Spinning Forward by Terri DuLong


A New Englander born and bred, the last place Sydney Webster expects to find herself starting over is on an island off the coast of Florida. Yet here she is in Cedar Key, trying to pull herself together after her husband’s untimely death—and the even more untimely revelation of his gambling addiction. Bereft of her comfortable suburban life, Syd takes shelter at a college pal’s bed and breakfast, where amidst the bougainvillea blossoms and the island’s gentle rhythms, a plan begins to form…

Syd never considered the possibility of turning her passion for spinning and knitting into something more than a hobby, but when the unique composition of her wool draws attention, a door is opened—the first among many. Yet even as she ventures out of her comfort zone, Syd finds herself stepping into the embrace of a community rich with love, laughter, friendship…and secrets. And as long-hidden truths are revealed, Syd faces a choice: spin a safety net—or spin decidedly forward and never look back…

* * * * * * *

Sydney was living a comfortable life until her husband died in a car accident. Soon after, a knock on the door signals the end of that life and sets her on a new path. She visits her college friend (who just happens to own a B&B) in Florida. Ali ends up being not only a great friend but also a guide of sorts – to Sydney finding her true self. Not an easy task.
There are also surprises in store for Sydney. She discovers information that brings new layers to her life. One piece of information is an unbelievable coincidence. She meets wonderful people who offer her acceptance and help. I really liked these characters although I wanted to know more about each of them. Since this is the first in the Cedar Key series I’m sure I’ll learn much more in the books to follow.
I enjoyed Spinning Forward – maybe because I’m about the same age as Sydney and could identify with a few of the things she was forced to face (not so much the major issues but other things women of the same age group might deal with). Because of that, I think this would be a good selection for book groups. Lots to discuss. A Reading Group Guide can be found at the end of the book.

Review copy from Kensington (via LibraryThing Early Reviewers)

The Secret of Everything by Barbara O’Neal

The Secret of Everything by Barbara O'Neal: Book Cover

Tessa Harlow enjoyed leading hiking tours until the hike that had a nightmarish ending. Feeling tremendous guilt and responsibility for the incident she goes to her father’s home to heal. From the time of the accident she has flashbacks from her early childhood – memories that don’t make sense. Feeling a pull to the area where she spent the first years of her life, Tessa heads to New Mexico to scout possible hiking tours and that’s where her journey really begins. By meeting people who are new to her but from her past Tessa starts to put pieces together that lead her to the truth of her early years.

I enjoyed Tessa’s journey of discovery and how she learns to make reparations. It seems that more than a few characters in the book are looking for a way to make amends in their lives and find that they can help each other along the way. The depth given to the major characters had me pulling for each one. My favorite was Natalie, the daughter of Tessa’s lover. Natalie is grieving the loss of her mother and is acting out. Tessa feels a connection and wants to help her. I loved how the author makes that happen.

Barbara O’Neal’s writing is beautiful and evocative. Her descriptions of sights, smells, and sounds give wonderful atmosphere to Los Ladrones – the small New Mexico town where the story takes place.

I enjoyed reading The Secret of Everything and look forward to more novels by Barbara O’Neal.

Review copy from Random House (via LibraryThing Early Reviewers)

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See – Review and a giveaway

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Lisa See tells the story of Chinese sisters Pearl and May Chin. The story begins in Shanghai where they live a carefree life of affluence. This fun and easy life soon changes for the 19 and 22 year old sisters. Their father has gambled away all the family’s money and his daughters are part of the deal to cancel his debts. This sets in motion a series of events that find Pearl and May on their way to the United States.

Once again, Ms. See shows her wonderful gift of story-telling. Pearl, the older and more educated sister, tells the story. I was swept up in the saga of the Shanghai Girls – twenty years of their hopes, dreams, disappointments, joys and sorrows. I could see the colors and smell the aromas of L.A.’s Chinatown. See’s descriptions are quite vivid and detailed.

I was shocked when I turned the last page (not realizing it was the last page). It seems to me there’s a lot more story to tell. And I look forward to reading it.

Shanghai Girls will be published May 26, 2009
You can read more about Lisa See at her website.

Thanks to Random House and LibraryThing Early Reviewers

And now, the giveaway of my gently read ARC!

1. I can offer it to residents of the U.S. and Canada only, no P.O. boxes

2. Giveaway ends Friday, April 17th at noon, EDT

3. For 1 entry, comment here and leave your email address
Giveaway Ended

Rocket Man by William Elliott Hazelgrove

Rocket Man by William Elliott Hazelgrove: Book Cover

Back of the book: Dale Hammer is trying to find his part of the American Dream. But he just can’t keep up. In a story of hilarious consequences, we find Dale in one week accused of cutting down the sign to his subdivision, plagued with a father who has come to live over his garage, and on the hook for being the Rocket Man of his son’s Scout troop. While the price of the American Dream has become nothing short of being rich and famous, Dale heads for the catastrophe of Rocket Day with one mission – to give his son a sense of independence, and in the process, find himself.
Rocket Man was almost too painful to read. Given the current state of the economy and reasons for that state, it was totally believable. Ten years ago it might have served as a cautionary tale but today it could be a story on 20/20.

A few years ago Dale and his wife and kids left Chicago for the suburbs – land of big houses on big lots, no crime, and like-minded folks (well, maybe not). What they realize a little too late is that it’s like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. All the trappings of his American Dream begin to weigh heavily on Dale as he tries to keep up appearances but becomes more and more angry. Spending a week in Dale’s life was rather annoying but Hazelgrove’s pace kept me reading.

Overall, I’d say if you want to read a novel about what’s happening in our society these days, this could be the book for you.

Drinking Problems at the Fountain of Youth by Beth Teitell

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From the back of the book: Women today are being told that we can have it all, including the twenty-year-old face and body we didn’t even have when we were twenty.

Beth Teitell (From Here to Maternity) gives a humorous but informative look at the world of looking younger. From fashion tips to surgical procedures, and just about everything in between, Teitell has done the legwork for us. And she actually makes it an enjoyable experience to read about it. In the end, though, it all comes down to how one feels about herself (in my humble opinion, that is). That said, I especially like the “ten tips that work, and won’t break your budget, eat up your time, or make you wonder about your own priorities” at the end of the book.
This is a review of an ARC and is due to be published in October 2008.

Summer Blowout by Claire Cook

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From the back of the book: Bella Shaughnessy is addicted to lipstick with names like My Chihuahua Bites and Kiss My Lips, an occupational hazard, since she works at Salon de Paolo, her family-run beauty salon, along with her four half-brothers and sisters. The owner is her father, Lucky Shaughnessy, a gregarious, three-times divorced charmer with Donald Trump hair who is obsessed with all things Italian. After Bella’s own marriage flames out spectacularly when her half-sister runs off with her husband, Bella decides she has seen enough of the damage love can do. She makes a vow: no more men.
Well, Bella didn’t plan on meeting a nice and handsome entrepreneur named Sean Ryan. Try as she might, she can’t keep him out of her life – especially since he has been instrumental in getting her exciting new project off the ground. This is a very light book filled to the brim with a loud, loving family and one very cute dog. Bella finds out that not all men are evil and some are even worthy of forgiveness. Add this to your list of books to read at the beach.