Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

  • Eligible (4:19:16 RH)Title:  Eligible: A modern retelling of Pride & Prejudice
  • Author:  Curtis Sittenfeld
  • Genre:  Literary Fiction
  • Pages:  512
  • Publish date:  April 19, 2016 – Random House
  • Source:  Publisher/NetGalley

Description:  From the “wickedly entertaining” (USA Today) Curtis Sittenfeld, New York Times bestselling author of Prep and American Wife, comes a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice. Equal parts homage to Jane Austen and bold literary experiment, Eligible is a brilliant, playful, and delicious saga for the twenty-first century.
 
This version of the Bennet family—and Mr. Darcy—is one that you have and haven’t met before: Liz is a magazine writer in her late thirties who, like her yoga instructor older sister, Jane, lives in New York City. When their father has a health scare, they return to their childhood home in Cincinnati to help—and discover that the sprawling Tudor they grew up in is crumbling and the family is in disarray.
 
Youngest sisters Kitty and Lydia are too busy with their CrossFit workouts and Paleo diets to get jobs. Mary, the middle sister, is earning her third online master’s degree and barely leaves her room, except for those mysterious Tuesday-night outings she won’t discuss. And Mrs. Bennet has one thing on her mind: how to marry off her daughters, especially as Jane’s fortieth birthday fast approaches.
 
Enter Chip Bingley, a handsome new-in-town doctor who recently appeared on the juggernaut reality TV dating show Eligible. At a Fourth of July barbecue, Chip takes an immediate interest in Jane, but Chip’s friend neurosurgeon Fitzwilliam Darcy reveals himself to Liz to be much less charming. . . . 
 
And yet, first impressions can be deceiving.   (publisher)

My take: I don’t consider myself an Austen scholar – not even close! – but I love her books. Even if you’re not a fan of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice I would recommend Eligible based on my enjoyment from reading it. It’s highly readable – addictive, I’d say. I was very happy I’d tossed it in my bag when I went on vacation.

I loved thoroughly modern Lizzie and her endearing sister Jane. Her other siblings added to the plot, for sure. Mr. and Mrs. Bennett were similar in temperament to the parents in P&P. I loved the occupations held by Darcy and Bingley and how the modern predicaments of all characters moved the plot.

Curtis Sittenfeld’s retelling of P&P is fun yet addresses the same basic issues as the original. There are distinct differences but I was happy about them – most made me laugh in a good way. I won’t spoil with specifics but I’ll recommend Eligible to anyone looking for an entertaining novel.

Letters to the Lost by Iona Grey

  • letters to the lost (may'15)Title:  Letters to the Lost: A novel
  • Author:  Iona Grey
  • Genre:  Historical Fiction/Romance
  • Published:  May 2015 – Thomas Dunne Books
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  Late on a frozen February evening, a young woman is running through the streets of London. Having fled from her abusive boyfriend and with nowhere to go, Jess stumbles onto a forgotten lane where a small, clearly unlived in old house offers her best chance of shelter for the night. The next morning, a mysterious letter arrives and when she can’t help but open it, she finds herself drawn inexorably into the story of two lovers from another time.  

In London 1942, Stella meets Dan, a US airman, quite by accident, but there is no denying the impossible, unstoppable love that draws them together. Dan is a B-17 pilot flying his bomber into Europe from a British airbase; his odds of survival at one in five. The odds are stacked against the pair; the one thing they hold onto is the letters they write to each other. Fate is unkind and they are separated by decades and continents. In the present, Jess becomes determined to find out what happened to them. Her hope—inspired by a love so powerful it spans a lifetime—will lead her to find a startling redemption in her own life in a powerfully moving novel perfect for fans of Sarah Jio and Kate Morton.  (publisher)

My take:   I loved the WWII and 2011 dual storylines and how they converged to solve a mystery in Letters to the Lost by Iona Grey.

The principal characters of Dan and Stella and Jess and Will were well-drawn and completely engaging. I found their stories compelling and looked forward to getting back to the book each time I had to stop reading. I credit Grey’s writing and her obvious gift for telling a good story! She impressed on the reader the emotions of those fighting in the war and those at home.

Stella and Jess shared similarities. Stella married the man she worked for naively thinking he truly loved her. Jess stayed too long in an abusive relationship before running away. The difference is that Jess had choices and Stella did not. That difference is what affected the rest of Stella’s life.

If you enjoy historical fiction with a good dose of romance you’re in for a treat with Iona Grey’s novel Letters to the Lost. I know I’ll be thinking about this book for a while. Recommended.

Blog Tour Review: The Secret Life of Violet Grant by Beatriz Williams

  • the secret life of violet grant (blog tour)Title:  The Secret Life of Violet Grant
  • Author:  Beatriz Williams
  • Genre:  Historical Fiction/Romance
  • Published:  (Paperback) May 2015 – Berkley
  • Source:  Publisher

My take:  When Vivian Schuyler finds in her possession a leather suitcase her life is turned upside down. Not only has she made a new acquaintance (the handsome young doctor who carried the suitcase home from the post office for her) but she discovers a relative (owner of said suitcase) she’d never heard of before.

Being an inquisitive magazine writer-in-training, Vivian is determined to learn all she can about the mysterious Aunt Violet. What she finds out is that her aunt was just as driven to achieve her dreams as Vivian is. Violet, an accomplished scientist, defied society’s norms of the day and found a position in England that she thought would give entrance to a life she sought. That job led her on a journey of twists and unexpected and dramatic turns.

Vivian also bucked family expectations and landed a magazine job after graduating college. Her determination served her well when she set off on Violet’s rather cold trail. Williams’ dual storylines of the two strong women had me turning the pages. It was a compelling tale but, I have to say, I could have done without Vivian’s “cute” dialogue/narrative that wouldn’t stop. I found it to be a distraction from the story. That said, I think fans of historical fiction (heavy on romance) would probably enjoy The Secret Life of Violet Grant.

Love Letters: A Rose Harbor Novel by Debbie Macomber

love letters - rose harbor#3 (Aug12)

  • Title:  Love Letters
  • Series:  Rose Harbor #3
  • Author:  Debbie Macomber
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction/Romance; series
  • Published:  August 2014 – Ballantine Books
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  In this enchanting novel set at Cedar Cove’s cozy Rose Harbor Inn, #1 New York Times bestselling author Debbie Macomber celebrates the power of love—and a well-timed love letter—to inspire hope and mend a broken heart.
Summer is a busy season at the inn, so proprietor Jo Marie Rose and handyman Mark Taylor have spent a lot of time together keeping the property running. Despite some folks’ good-natured claims to the contrary, Jo Marie insists that Mark is only a friend. However, she seems to be thinking about this particular friend a great deal lately. Jo Marie knows surprisingly little about Mark’s life, due in no small part to his refusal to discuss it. She’s determined to learn more about his past, but first she must face her own—and welcome three visitors who, like her, are setting out on new paths.
Twenty-three-year-old Ellie Reynolds is taking a leap of faith. She’s come to Cedar Cove to meet Tom, a man she’s been corresponding with for months, and with whom she might even be falling in love. Ellie’s overprotective mother disapproves of her trip, but Ellie is determined to spread her wings.
Maggie and Roy Porter are next to arrive at the inn. They are taking their first vacation alone since their children were born. In the wake of past mistakes, they hope to rekindle the spark in their marriage—and to win back each other’s trust. But Maggie must make one last confession that could forever tear them apart.
For each of these characters, it will ultimately be a moment when someone wore their heart on their sleeve—and took pen to paper—that makes all the difference. Debbie Macomber’s moving novel reveals the courage it takes to be vulnerable, accepting, and open to love.  (publisher)

My take:  Debbie Macomber’s third installment of the Rose Harbor series involves Jo Marie, the thirty-something widowed innkeeper, who continues to grieve the loss of her husband. She’s also trying to figure out what’s up with Mark, her handyman. This storyline has been in each book of the series and we find out a bit more in this book – but not everything.

Guests at the inn are a couple who are trying to get their marriage back on track and a young woman who is going to meet for the first time a young man she met online. Each chapter involves one of the three storylines and made for a fast, enjoyable and entertaining read.

You don’t have to have read the previous books in the series but I recommend it. You’ll get a better feel for Jo Marie’s background story. I think this book is the perfect vacation read – it was easy to set down but I always looked forward to picking it back up. I’m eager to read the next book in the series (and not just because there was a bit of a cliff-hanger). Recommended to fans of Debbie Macomber and contemporary, small town fiction.

Come Home to Me by Brenda Novak

come home to me

  • Title:  Come Home to Me
  • Series:  Whiskey Creek, #6
  • Author:  Brenda Novak
  • Genre:  Romance
  • Published:  March 2014 – Harlequin MIRA
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis: Home is where her heart is. When Presley Christensen returns to Whiskey Creek with her little boy after two years away, she has completely changed her life. She’s made peace with her past and overcome the negative behavior that resulted from her difficult childhood. Now she’s back in the small town that was the closest thing to “home” she ever knew — the town where she can be with the sister who’s her only family. 

There’s just one catch. Aaron Amos still lives in Whiskey Creek, at least until he moves to Reno to open a branch of the Amos brothers’ auto body shop. And no matter how hard she’s tried, Presley hasn’t been able to get over him. Seeing him again makes the longing so much worse. But she hopes she can get through the next few months, because she can’t fall back into his arms…or his bed. She’s come too far to backslide now. And there’s a secret she’s been guarding — a secret she’ll do anything to protect.  (publisher)

My take:  Usually when you get to the sixth book in a series the reader has expectations of former secondary characters getting their time in the spotlight and most likely finding their happily-ever-after. In that regard, Brenda Novak’s sixth book in the Whiskey Creek series fits the mold.

What I didn’t expect was a secret (other than the one alluded to in the synopsis) that will probably threaten the future of the people who think they’re doing the right thing for the happiness of another character. 

Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.  – Sir Walter Scott

That secret was a major distraction to my reading experience. While I liked that Presley and Aaron had worked hard on their personal growth and had positive goals and ambitions I couldn’t get past their participation in a plan that will have a lasting impact on the lives of many.

So, it may seem like I didn’t like Come Home to Me but I like getting emotionally involved in the outcome of any book I read. This book definitely evoked emotions and I look forward to the continuation of “the secret” story line in which the characters involved will hopefully come to their senses!

Blossom Street Brides by Debbie Macomber

blossom street brides (vine)

  • Title:  Blossom Street Brides
  • Series:  Blossom Street, #10
  • Author:  Debbie Macomber
  • Genre:  Romance
  • Published:  March 25, 2014 – Ballantine Books
  • Source:  Publisher

My take:  I love my visits to Blossom Street.  I haven’t read all of the previous books but I plan to.  This time we catch up with Lydia, the owner of the yarn shop on Blossom Street – A Good Yarn. Life is good for Lydia, her husband and two children. Her mother has health issues that concern her but daughter Casey dotes upon her grandmother which eases Lydia’s worries a bit. These days Lydia is trying to solve the mystery of who is placing baskets of knitting projects around the city with directions to take the finished project to A Good Yarn. Business sure has picked up!

Lydia’s display window features a baby blanket that catches the eye of almost everyone. She has trouble keeping the yarn for the project in stock. Two women in particular are waiting for the next order to arrive. Lauren, a young woman who works down the street wants to knit the blanket for the baby her younger sister expects. Lauren would give anything to be married and pregnant. Bethanne just found out her son and his wife are expecting. She can’t wait to start knitting for her first grandchild.

After realizing her long-time boyfriend has no intention of proposing Lauren puts together a “husband list” – a list of qualities she wants in a husband. She’ll soon find that what she always thought was important is not what she really wants.

Bethanne is a newlywed and living in Seattle while her husband lives in California.  They see each other on weekends and know they can’t keep living this way. Bethanne’s daughter refuses to give her blessing to her stepfather. After all, her father wanted to reunite with her mother when his second marriage (the one he left his family for) fell apart. Bethanne feels torn between her new life and her daughter.

Blossom Street Brides is typical Debbie Macomber. She writes good stories that are quite addicting – at least they are to me! She has such an easy style that grabs me from the first page and leaves me smiling as I turn the last. I can’t wait for my next visit to Blossom Street.

The All You Can Dream Buffet: A Novel by Barbara O’Neal

the all you can eat dream buffet

  • Title:  The All You Can Dream Buffet
  • Author:  Barbara O’Neal
  • Genre:  Fiction
  • Published:  March 2014 – Bantam
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  Popular blogger and foodie queen Lavender Wills reigns over Lavender Honey Farms, a serene slice of organic heaven nestled in Oregon wine country. Lavender is determined to keep her legacy from falling into the profit-driven hands of uncaring relatives, and she wants an heir to sustain her life’s work after she’s gone. So she invites her three closest online friends—fellow food bloggers, women of varied ages and backgrounds—out to her farm. She hopes to choose one of them to inherit it—but who?  (publisher)

My take:  The author’s name was the first thing to draw me to The All You Can Dream Buffet  and then the synopsis pulled me right in. I’m a fan of Barbara O’Neal’s novels. Her evocative descriptions always make me feel as if I’m in the background observing what’s going on in each scene.

The characters and their specific issues engaged me from the start.  Ruby, a vegan chef and food blogger, went through a shocking break up with her boyfriend of six years and can’t get over him.  Ginny, a cake blogger and photographer, can’t wait to meet her online friends and is ready to make big changes. Val, a wine blogger, and her daughter are on their way to a new life after suffering a devastating loss. They all meet up at Lavender’s farm for her 85th birthday party. Little do they know she hopes to make one of them heir to her farm. This is a story of change and second chances and I cheered for each woman along the way.

I liked this novel but after finishing wished it could have been longer. Since the book is 400 pages I wonder if a lot had been cut which made the ending seem a bit rushed. All that aside, if you’re a fan of the author, novels with a food theme, recipes and just a touch of magical realism you might want to read The All You Can Dream Buffet. I’m glad I did.