Reading, Reviews

East of the Sun, South of Good: A “Why I Didn’t Finish It” Review

Last night, I found myself back in the book mood. I decided to take another whack at East of the Sun by Julia Gregson. This time, I couldn’t blame not being in the book mood for my distaste of the book. East of the Sun is not for East of the Sunme.[ This is why I’m scared to do Advanced Copy Reviews…I just can’t put myself through certain books.] I did like the idea of having a good look at what the British Empire was like for English wives in India. It was an interesting concept, looking at “The Fishing Fleet,” those debutantes who had not successfully reeled in husbands during “the season” in London and so had to go to India, where the ratio of British men to women was 3:1. The book definitely had some good qualities. However, the characters and the plot line were too thin and broke before they had a chance to reel in this reader.

The main characters are Rose, Tor, Viva, Guy, and Jack. Rose is heading to India because, being an English beauty, she met Jack on his leave in London during the season, and agreed to be his wife. She is traveling with Tor, her husband-less, lovelorn cousin, and Viva, their chaperone. Viva happens to be younger than she has claimed, and also has charge of Guy, an 18-year-old boy who has been kicked out of boarding school and sent home. He has some mysterious behavioral issues. I thought the character development got off to a good start, but then floundered after everyone boarded the ship to India. Everyone is embroiled in some personal mystery, that is slowly revealed through the book. It’s intriguing, and I can understand some readers really enjoying it. The soap opera feel of the plot on board the ship just got to me. People were throwing themselves at each other, lavish settings were described half way but not completely detailed, and a certain darkness surrounded everyone. It was as if something bad was lurking underneath the surface.

So have you finished East of the Sun? What did you like and not like about it?

I am now finally reading The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald and really enjoying it so far. Classics are so safe, you know? I’m headed to the beach soon so I’m trying to gather some good beach read titles.  Let me know if you have some ideas to share!

Everyday Life, Reading

Not In The Book Mood

I’ve been trying to get into East of the Sun, but it’s slow going. I don’t think it’s the book’s fault, though; I think I’m just not in the book mood. Do you ever have those weeks when you’ve been reading at a steady pace and loving it and then, all of a sudden, you just don’t feel like reading? Like you pick up a book and get through a page and then find yourself checking Facebook again, even though there’s nothing there to see? And you think “Who AM I?” I’ve had one of those weeks. I think it’s because the kids were sick from Thursday to Tuesday and the sleep has not been very quality for anyone in this house. On top of that, there’s a frantic, summer is almost over, humming in my brain that tells me to get outside. “Not that one can’t read out of doors.” But you know what I mean.

Despite all that, I’ll probably read something or other this weekend. But what I’m looking forward to most is hanging out with friends, drafting a stellar fantasy football team, getting some rest,  attending a blue grass concert, spending time with my husband, and going to the annual Labor Day Parade in a nearby small town. Ella and Isaac (4 and 2) have never been to a parade before, and this one happens to be one in which almost every float throws candy out to the kids watching the parade. Yeah, I think they’re going to like it.

Have a wonderful Labor Day Weekend. As always, let me know if you stumble upon a great book!

Everyday Life, Reading, Reviews, Young Adult

August Reading, Part 2, and A Tiny Rant Against Autumn

There’s a crispness in the air that I despise. Yes, I said despise. Sorry, Fall and Football lovers. I love summer and I cannot lie. I do not like cold days. I do not like the mess of leaves all over the back yard, and all the raking…raking…raking. I don’t like watching the summer flowers die. I don’t like heavy clothing and jeans every day.  But really, the biggest problem of all is that my family is not taking our one and only beach vacation until mid-September. Summer, please stay until then!

However! I am trying to conjure up happy memories of hot chocolate and books by a warm fire. Maybe if I start a Fall reading list, I’ll let go of my morbidity towards Autumn. If I can keep finding as many good books in the Autumn months as I’ve found in August, the coming season will be pretty swell.

Here are the books I finished this month.:

1. Cybele’s Secret by Juliet Marillier

Cybele's Secret (Wildwood, #2) The sequel to Wildwood Dancing, but not nearly as great. Still, a pretty good read, especially if you’re a fan of the genre. Marillier is one of  my new favorite YA authors.

2. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Read my reviews (yes, there are two of them) here and here

3. The Artist’s Daughter

I really liked this memoir. Read my review here

4.  Slash Your Grocery Budget & Eat a Whole Foods Diet With Aldi by Carrie Willard

I read a slew of nonfiction this month. I consider it a slew, anyway. The main reason was that Ella came down with a stomach bug on Sunday afternoon and I couldn’t leave her side without her getting upset. So while she dozed, I read all the free e-books I’ve been downloading to the Kindle app on my phone. I find these free books on moneysavingmom.com, but I usually download them and then forget about them. I was grateful to have them this weekend, though.

Slash Your Grocery Budget was a great book for people who shop at Aldi or are considering shopping at Aldi. It includes menus and recipes—features that equal awesomeness in any nonfiction book. I haven’t actually tried any of the recipes yet, but I plan to. Look for this book to show up in my next Saturday Cooking feature.

5. A Simpler Season by Jessica Fisher

With the chill in the air and the impending hours watching football, I’m feeling like now is a good time to start planning some projects for Christmas. Last Christmas I had all kinds of ideas and hardly any of them got done. I’m okay with that; my kids were 3 and 1, we had a nice holiday season that was not as stressful as usual, we celebrated what mattered. Still, I’d like to be a little more involved in the details this year. A Simpler Season was a good starting point for me to think through those some of those details. Will you still find me in Target two days before Christmas? Probably. But hope springs eternal.

6. How to Eat A Cupcake by Meg Donahue

A departure from the norm for me, but in a fun, not-too-terrible, romantic comedy kind of way. Read my review here.

Now I’m working on East of the Sun by Julia Gregson. For school with Ella, we’re reading In Grandma’s Attic. I can’t tell you how much I am loving re-reading my favorite children’s chapter books with Ella. We tried The Bobbsey Twins, but it was a little wordy for now. Maybe in a year or two. I actually never liked those books much, but they seem cute to me now.

Tell me what should go on my Fall reading list! I need a long, cheering list to console me over being robbed (robbed!) of summer.

Reading

My First Top Ten Tuesday – Most Memorable Secondary Characters

I’m linking up to The Broke and the Bookish‘s feature, Top Ten Tuesday, for the first time today.

I’ve thought about joining for a while, but I knew this had to be the week I started when I saw this week’s theme: Top Ten Most Memorable Secondary Characters. I often find myself growing inexplicably fond of secondary characters. Probably because I suspect I would be one if I were in a book. Or possibly because authors have more freedom to make secondary characters more eccentric or quirky because readers don’t have relate to them throughout an entire book or even put up with them the whole time.

I felt that I needed a definition of what a secondary character is, so maybe you do, too. A secondary character, though not the main character, does make actions that affect the plot of a story. A minor character, however, does not.

So here are my favorite/most memorable secondary characters:

1. Eowyn in The Two Towers and The Return of the King

I went through a period in high school when I wanted to be Eowyn. It was not one of my finer stages. No, I didn’t dress up as Eowyn for geek costume parties or anything like that (I wasn’t invited). I just wanted to be that noble and brave. While I like a more traditional woman for a roll model these days, I still think she’s one of the best female character in literature. And definitely the best girl turned battle hero. I’d take her over Katniss or any other girl hero any day.

2. Miss Havisham in Great Expectations

She gets my vote, hands down, for creepiest memorable secondary character (that’s a mouthful). Really, this whole list could be made up of Dickens characters. Uriah Heep comes to mind.

3. Dickon in The Secret Garden

The Secret GardenWhen I was a little girl, I wanted a big brother. And I wanted that big brother to be Dickon. Or maybe Frederick from The Sound of Music.  Dickon was such a good friend to Mary, who didn’t really deserve a friend but desperately needed one. It wasn’t until Mary found a friend in Dickon that she was able to befriend Colin. Also, Dickon was a boy who was good with animals and plants. I found that to be important, somehow, in boys when I was a child.

4. Reepicheep in Prince Caspian

Reepicheep cracks me up. Besides his humor, he is so valiant and useful and loyal. His faith in Caspian and in Aslan is unshakable. Another Narnian secondary character I’ll never forget is Mr. Beaver. I’ve always wanted to visit the inside of his and Mrs. Beaver’s house/beaver dam. It sounds so quaint and cozy.

5.  Rachel Lynde in Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea, etc.

Or any number of secondary characters in that series. I love Miss Lavender, too, but I suspect she’s more of a minor character.

6. Honey in the Trixie Belden series

This is probably where I get my sidekick complex. When I was a kid and I was reading the Trixie Belden mysteries with a friend, my friend told me, “you’re definitely Honey and I’m more Trixie.” Ouch. Honey was the rich, girly, tag-along. Oh well. It was pretty true. Except for the rich part.

7. Isla in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

 Yes, I’m mentioning Guernsey AGAIN on my blog. But Isla was awesome. She was so strange, yet someone with whom everyone felt comfortable. Also, I would put Kit in this list, too, but I feel bad about two characters from the same book. I fell in love with Kit. She is adorable.

8. Rudy Steiner in The Book Thief 

I will probably never recover (okay, exaggerating) from the boy Rudy in this book. He is the most likable character I’ve come across in years. And that’s not a slight to all the other characters in books I’ve read and loved. I just mean he is that awesome.

9. Hagrid from The Harry Potter series

Who can forget Hagrid? He could probably be number one on this list; he is that memorable. I’ll never forget his weeping over various and terrifying pets.

10. Lady Catherine from Pride and Prejudice

Her snobbery without anything but money to back it up is legendary. Her lines in P&P are some of the most memorable. “Are the shades of Pemberly to be thus polluted,”  and “If I had ever learnt, I should have been a great proficient.” etc.

Who are your favorite secondary characters in books?


Reading, Reviews

Life After Life – Thoughts After Finishing

Despite my dithering, I did decide to finish reading Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. I couldn’t stop thinking about it and I had to know how it ended. Remember, the premise of the book is that the main character, Ursula, has an unusual life that ends and begins Life After Lifeover and over again, with slight differences that end up making a lot of difference in the course of her history. Err..histories. It was an intriguing idea. I thought if I finished the book, there would be closure and I could move on to the next book. But talk about a novel without much clear closure! I can’t figure out which ending is true because Ursula seems to live a bunch of parallel lives. I am glad that I finished, but it didn’t make me long to read the rest of Atkinsons’ books. Life After Life will definitely make you think twice about deja vu, kind of like the movie The Matrix. It also made me ponder survivor’s guilt. Why is it that people feel guilty when they survive and others don’t? In Life After Life, Ursula feels guilty because she somehow knows in the back of her mind that if she had made one decision differently, she could have prevented whatever bad thing just happened. At one point in the book, she recounts being saved from drowning as a child and says, “It was one of the few adventures in her life where she felt she had played an almost entirely innocent part.”Shudder. It’s enough to drive you mad.

Another thing about the book that drove me mad was Ursula herself. Except for one part of her many lives, she seemed very lacking in ambition. And why couldn’t she pick a guy and stick with him? Why does it take her countless flings over many lives to figure anything out? I prefer the constancy of the characters in The Time Traveler’s Wife (though I didn’t really like that book much, either…). Ursula’s romantic life was mostly just disheartening and disgusting, and she never truly liked anyone she was with, much less loved. Did she feel that was all she deserved? I have lots of questions about this book.

There’s a lot one could ponder in Life After Life. It was a though provoking book, but it comes down to this: the whole premise is not reality, so there’s not much use in pondering any of it. If you have read the book and feel you got some nugget of true wisdom out of it, please share it with me. I think I could pick up a ton of nuances and details that are significant to the story if I did a second reading, but I probably won’t read it again. For one thing, dozens of library patrons are clamoring for it, so I need to return it post haste.

One very true thing I learned from the book was that I have got to take a break from World War II books, especially ones set in London during the Blitz. I’m beginning to feel like I survived it in person, instead of only through books. I’m like one of those historians in Black Out by Connie Willis (which is a fascinating book, with a mostly fascinating sequel). Atkinson’s account of the Blitz was particularly gruesome. I’m sure it was not far from the truth, but it was difficult to read, nonetheless.

Up next for me is The Princess and the Goblin and East of the Sun. And can someone please recommend a good book for me that is not set in World War II? I’d be most obliged. =)

Reading, Reviews

Overlooked Greatness: Elizabeth Gaskell

I’ve mentioned before that I love British Literature from the Victorian era, or slightly before. It was a minor tragedy when I ran out of Jane Austen, George Eliot, and the Bronte sisters a few years ago.

Enter: Elizabeth Gaskell.

photo (1)
My Gaskell Collection

I had never heard of Elizabeth Gaskell (known as Mrs. Gaskell during her publishing career), until I took a Bronte seminar in college and read parts of her The Life of Charlotte Bronte. Generally, I am terrible at reading nonfiction, biographies especially, but I found that I enjoyed Gaskell’s biography of Charlotte. Granted, some scholars claim that Gaskell took some liberties to make Charlotte’s life story a bit more like a novel. I forgive her for that, though, because her skill obviously lies in the novel form. Two of her works, Wives and Daughters and North and South are some of my favorite books.

Wives and Daughters (TV tie-in)Wives and Daughters is the story of Molly Gibson and her family. At the beginning of the novel, Molly is a motherless child, being brought up by her father, the village doctor. Molly enjoys her companionable relationship with her father. By and by, her father decides to marry again. His choice is questionable, but it makes for a great novel. The woman he  marries has a daughter, Cynthia. Cynthia is affectionate towards her new sister and father, but has made questionable choices in the past that come to light along the way. This novel also has a great villain, Mr. Preston. Wives and Daughters is centered on the family and village life, but it also has a lot to say about the struggle between science and traditionalism in the 1830s. Squire Hamley, a family friend and main character in the novel, is entrenched in his old farming ways, while his son, Roger, is an up and coming naturalist and has big ideas of what needs to change. That and many other plot lines and wonderful characters makes Wives and Daughters a beautiful work, comparable to the best novels of the time. Lauren Lerner calls it “surely the most neglected novel of its century” in his introduction to the Penguin Classic 1986 edition. Its only shortcoming is the fact that Mrs. Gaskell died before she tied up the ending into the beautifully wrapped package Victorian novels usually become. However, I think the ending is quite sufficient. Yes, it has a bit more of a modern, open-ended feel, but it’s pretty obvious where it’s going. If you like Austen, I think you’ll like Wives and Daughters.

North and SouthNorth and South surprised me with how different it was from Wives and Daughters. While Wives and Daughters closely follows a family and a several other village characters, North and South is full of social contrasts: industrial vs. agricultural, city vs. country, poor vs. rich. The title refers to the contrast in England between the industrial, factory-operated North and the pastoral, high-society south and London. It has a bit of a critical, Dickensonian approach. When Gaskell first introduces Margaret Hale, the main character, she is returning to her country home in Heston from a London visit to cousins. Margaret loves the picturesque cottage her family enjoys as her part of her father’s position as a minister in the Church of England. Margaret’s life quickly changes when her father’s conscience can no longer bear some differences he has with the Church of England, and he breaks ties with it. The family moves to a Northern city called Milton. Then, Margaret is thrust into a new perspective, as she watches and makes her own judgment of the factory life the Milton runs on. She meets a mill owner, John Thornton, and they form a tension-filled acquaintance, as Margaret disagrees with his treatment of the people he works for. As the novel progresses, the Margaret and Mr. Thornton find their opinions challenged and changed by one another and the circumstances that surround them.

Margaret Hale is one of my favorite literary characters of all time. I’d liken her a bit to an Elinor Dashwood or Ann Elliot, but much more lively. Margaret is aglow with the cause she champions and the people she wants to help. She is full of compassion and love tempered by steel determination and quite an ability to dislike as much as like. Her complexity is unparalleled in any Victorian literature I have read.

I hope you read both of these works by Gaskell. If you don’t think you’ll like them, perhaps you should try the Masterpiece Classic adaptations of them and see if they might whet your appetite for Elizabeth Gaskell. I’d usually not recommend watching the movie before reading the book, but they are pretty great, as far as movies go. =)

Links to movies on Amazon (please note: this post contains no affiliate links):

Wives and Daughters

North and South

think there are some videos from these movies on YouTube, but I’m not sure of their legality.

And finally, a disclaimer: if you read Elizabeth Gaskell, I would not recommend Mary Barton or Ruth. I’m sure that there are people somewhere who like those books. I found them to be rather trite–fallen Victorian woman plight, etc. Perhaps they were a little more cutting edge in their time, but if you’ve read The Mill on the FlossTess of the d’Urbervilles, or any number of similar stories, you don’t really need to add Ruth or Mary Barton to your repertoire, unless you find that you have become a die hard Mrs. Gaskell fan and must read all her works.

I hope you check out Elizabeth Gaskell and find a new favorite, or at least an enjoyable read. Happy reading!

Reading, Reviews

Life After Life – A Halfway Through Review

Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life is quite the conversation book right now. It’s the one every reader who reads anything is reading (that isLife After Life sarcasm– I hate those kind of statements that lump all readers together; if there’s any past time that can be more individualistic than reading, I’d be surprised). I started it on Wednesday night and read it every chance I got until yesterday afternoon, when I couldn’t take it anymore. I am not talking about the writing–the writing was poignant, sharp, and sometimes humorous. Kate Atkinson is  new name to me, but this is not her first book. Her writing was great. What I couldn’t take was the hardships of the children in the book.

The book is about Ursula, a girl who experiences reincarnation over and over again. However, she is not reincarnated into someone else, but always as the same person, in the same life. She starts to understand that her sense of deja vu is stronger than most at an early age, when she gets terrible forebodings about incidents. She can’t explain the feeling of foreboding, but she just knows she has to do something to change what she somehow knows will end badly. She quickly becomes “the odd one” in her family of five children and two loving parents. As life progresses, she becomes more and more confused about what her life is. The book has the feel of a British A Tree Grows in Brooklyn with a magical realism twist. So far, it’s a coming of age story on repeat. And it seems a terrible way to come of age. 

want to finish this book, but I am simply incapable of reading books in which bad things happen to children. I’m not alone in this–several of my friends who are moms are in the same reading boat. My Sister’s Keeper put me off books for a week. Sarah’s Key completely did me in; I was nauseated for days… it was like I had a stomach bug, but it was really just a book bug.  I simply cannot do books with tragic endings of children. That is why I don’t know if I can keep reading Life After Life. By the time Ursula is 10, she has experienced many different mothers’ worst nightmares. Maybe that wouldn’t be so bad, if the tragic things didn’t also happen to other children who do not share Ursula’s gift/curse of direct reincarnation. Although I think it’s more like a cat with nine lives than reincarnation. Anyway. I’d like to finish, but I’m not sure if it’s worth.

Have you read Life After Life? Can you tell me if the ending justifies the beginning? I have never, ever, ever skipped to the end of a book to make sure the ending was worth the reading…but this time, I’m really tempted to.

Everyday Life, Parenting

5 Things I Learned From Homeschooling That Didn’t Come From Books

I mentioned a week ago that I’m starting some official pre-schooling at home with my four-year-old, Ella. What I didn’t mention is that I am a 2nd generation home-schooling mother. In other words, I was homeschooled and I am now homeschooling [insert your own joke about jean jumpers here]. I am so grateful for the education my mom and dad gave me. The parts I have found the most valuable, however, didn’t come from books. Yes, I do have a love for reading. But the most valuable things I learned from my parents were lessons learned alongside the books. Parents have a huge impact on children, no matter what kind of school work they do. Whether you’re homeschooling or traditionally schooling your kids, here are some lessons every kid needs to know.

1. Learning happens everywhere.

People started asking me when I was going to start Ella in school when she was as young as two-year-olds. I always wanted to say, “I already have,” but I knew that they were asking about formal school work. We’re doing a simple work book right now, but before, we just learned as we played. Ella learned her numbers, letters, colors, all the preschool stuff without ever doing an official preschool curriculum. Children simply love to learn.

2. Younger children are precious friends.

I was totally unaware that “big kids” didn’t like to play with little kids until I was about eight and my friend from down the road came over and made a huge deal of playing without my younger sister. My sister and I are almost four years apart, but we played everything together. The idea that older children aren’t cool if they play with younger children makes me sad. I am glad my mom made it clear that siblings are the most valuable friends, and I’m hoping to instill that truth in my children as they grow.

3. Hard work is important in whatever you do.

Good grades are a nice outcome of hard work. But so is building character. I want my kids to know that I am proud of their hard work more than their results. My parents reinforced this in our home. I was an overachiever, so the grades were usually good. But when they weren’t…when I bombed that 6th grade math test and had a mini identity crisis…my mom made sure I knew that the worth was in the work, not the grades. That has proven true in school work and in all other areas of my life. I started two of my jobs with no experience in the field I was working in, and I had a lot to learn. I wasn’t great at it at first, but my employers saw my hard work and gave me a chance to get things right. I can see my kids hearing this a lot as they grow up: the worth is in the way you work.

 

4. Opportunities are boundless.

I loved how my parents would tailor our schooling to what we really liked to do. P.E. classes were actually gymnastics classes. Music classes varied from piano lessons to choir. And if we showed interest in something, we were encouraged to do more with it. My dad encouraged me to make hanging baskets of pansies and sell them. My mom gave me scraps to sew. At age 16, I got a job teaching gymnastics. There are all kinds of opportunities for your kids to do what they love, if they have some encouragement from you to think that way about their skills and passions.

5. All children learn differently.

I know I’m going to have to learn this for myself with my own children. Still, watching how my mom approached teaching each of us differently has been invaluable in how I approach working with my own children and others’ children, too.

Here’s to another school year starting. Wherever you send your children, we all need to remind ourselves that the most important lessons don’t have much to do with books.

Reading, Reviews

The Weird Sisters Review

The Weird SistersThe Weird Sisters is a novel by Eleanor Brown, released in 2009. I picked it up at 2nd & Charles while my kids were looking at children’s books and I was browsing the “To be shelved” carts next to the children’s section. The title intrigued me (I do like some Shakespeare). The first few pages had me hooked. This book is about three sisters; I am from a family of three sisters. This book is about a family of readers; I am from a family of readers. That may be where the similarities end, but I still smiled to myself many times at the familiarity of some of the personalities and situations in The Weird Sisters.

The three main characters, Rosamund, Bianca, and Cordelia, are grown women when they all move back home. They come back mostly because their mother is diagnosed with cancer, but they each of their own reasons for needing a safe haven for a while. The sisters are all very different, but they love each other. They just don’t exactly enjoy each other’s company. Or so they think.

I wholly enjoyed this book. I felt like I was a fly on the wall, watching the members of the family as they developed and grew to understand one another and themselves. When the book was done, I had a hard time coming to grips with the fact that those people I was reading about didn’t actually exist. Brown did a great job of making her characters seem real. I also liked the witty dialogue, and the way the book was narrated by all the sisters at the same time. Kind of like a triune narrator. It was only mildly confusing. =) I finished this book very thankful for the great relationships I have with my awesome sisters, and wishing that I had more Shakespeare memorized. I re-read The Tempest and I’m on to The Merchant of VeniceAll in all, The Weird Sisters was a fun book with a bit of a scholarly feel. I hope Eleanor Brown writes more books!

 

Reading, Reviews

How To Eat A Cupcake

There’s a part in the movie Music and Lyrics that I think of often when I’m reviewing books. Drew Barrymore confronts Hugh Grant about his pandering to a pop princess. She says “Your heroes, the Beatles, Smokey [Robinson], they never would have let this happen,” and Hugh Grant responds “That’s a completely different thing. They’re geniuses. They wrote dinner. I write dessert.”

How to Eat a CupcakeSome books are dessert. They’re not chocked full of nutrition for your brain, but they’re a nice change of pace sometimes. I don’t read dessert books a whole lot (I think each person may have his or her own definition of dessert). When I picked up How to Eat a Cupcake, I didn’t expect to like it. But I had a stack of ten books I’d gathered so far at the library and not one of them seemed at all promising. I started reading How to Eat a Cupcake on Saturday night when everyone else in my house was fast asleep and I was wide awake but wanting to be asleep. “This should do the trick,” I thought. I was wrong. I finished it the next day. It was not dinner, but I still kind of liked it. It was refreshing, in a way. Kind of like hanging out with an old friend watching old movies and drinking chocolate milk.

How to Eat a Cupcake was written by Meg Donahue and published in 2012. Here’s the plot line from goodreads.com:

Funny, free-spirited Annie Quintana and sophisticated, ambitious Julia St. Clair come from two different worlds. Yet, as the daughter of the St. Clair’s housekeeper, Annie grew up in Julia’s San Francisco mansion and they forged a bond that only two little girls who know nothing of class differences and scholarships could—until a life-altering betrayal destroyed their friendship.

A decade later, Annie is now a talented, if underpaid, pastry chef who bakes to fill the void left in her heart by her mother’s death. Julia, a successful businesswoman, is tormented by a painful secret that could jeopardize her engagement to the man she loves. When a chance reunion prompts the unlikely duo to open a cupcakery, they must overcome past hurts and a mysterious saboteur or risk losing their fledgling business and any chance of healing their fractured friendship.

The friendship between Julia and Annie is complex. The story is told in turns by these two characters, which I think was a a great way to write the book. Readers can see what’s going on in the thoughts of the two main characters. Annie’s character was a little on the annoying side at times, but for the most part, it was easy to like the characters you were supposed to like. Donohue did a good job of introducing Julia as a society type you’d roll your eyes at and dismiss, or even loath, and then transforming her as you read and get to really know her. I didn’t enjoy the romance part of the book at all. It was very shallow. But it’s easy to skip over most of that. One of the best parts of the book was how it treated a certain grief many women have but don’t know how to deal with, or how to even talk about it. I won’t give it away, but it’s really a surprisingly insightful look into an issue that just doesn’t get talked about a whole lot, and I think it should.

Still, pick this book up only if you’re in the mood for a chick flick but would rather read a book than watch a movie. Or you feel like a very light read at the pool. Or you love this kind of book in general and don’t know why I’m making a huge deal over it. Forgive me. I’m still trying to get over my hang up about admitting that I like some books.

I’m also trying to get over a craving for cupcakes. I highly recommend buying the ingredients for cupcakes before reading this book.

Next on my to read list is Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. There’s a lot of buzz about this book, which makes me nervous to read it. I’m looking forward to it, though.

~Some books I’ve read (listened to, actually) that are similar to How To Eat A Cupcake:

A Mile In My Flip Flops

Keeping the Moon