Book Review: If I Could Turn Back Time

Image: Goodreads

Image: Goodreads

Rating: 4 out of 5

In Beth Harbison’s novel If I Could Turn Back Time, Ramie Phillips is 36 years old with a lucrative career that affords her designer clothes and luxurious vacations. But as she compares herself to her pregnant friends, what fulfilled her in her twenties seems empty and superficial in her thirties, and she finds herself wistfully dreaming of a family.

After suffering a freak accident, she gets a redo at life when she wakes up as her 18-year-old self. Now is her chance…or so she thinks. Can she preserve her relationship with her high school sweetheart, stand up to the mean girls, and maybe even get her dad to give up smoking before he dies suddenly two years after graduation?

I’ve been a fan of Harbison for years, ever since I read Shoe Addicts Anonymous and its sequel Secrets of a Shoe Addict. She has a knack for writing relatable characters and meaningful relationships outside of the romantic ones. Ramie certainly fantasizes about settling down with her old boyfriend, but she understands that the greater lesson in this surreal experience is living in the moment, whether she can change what happens in it or not.

It would be easy to make this time-travel story full of cliches, making a career-oriented woman realize that she should have cast aside her ambitions and become a stay-at-home mom instead. What’s interesting is that Ramie gets the opportunity to walk down two very different paths to see which better suits her as an individual.

In a world in which everyone displays their highlight reel on social media, we may believe that we should have done things differently. Without disparaging any particular life choice, Harbison explores whether the grass is truly greener on the other side. I have never felt inclined to become a domestic goddess, but the idea of “what if?” has the reader pondering what she’d do in Ramie’s shoes.

Rather than ask whether women can have it all, Harbison asks the better question: do they even want it all to begin with? If I Could Turn Back Time explores serious themes like nostalgia, regret and the loss of a parent in a way that’s more playful than painful. It’s a great read to begin the new year as we reminisce about the past and look forward to the future.

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The Book Club Babe is Back!

“America’s Next Top Model” will also be back this month, but sadly without runway diva, Miss. J.

Hi everyone!

As much as I’d like to say that I conquered NaNoWriMo, I have to confess that I spent last month’s hiatus preoccupied with another major task…getting a new job! Between resumes and cover letters, I didn’t leave much writing time for my novel. In fact, I only clocked about 300 words on the first day of the challenge before life took over. I know..excuses, excuses! But I hope those of you fellow Wrimos crushed it on my behalf!

I’ve only been sitting at my new desk for a few days, so you’ll have to wait a little longer while I get acclimated before I can tackle my blogging backlog. This month, I’ll be focusing on my final four book reviews, then publishing my 2016 wrap-up before the new year.

I’m currently reading the oh-so-popular young-adult novel Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, so I’m excited to learn what all the fuss is about! You should also keep an eye out for my reviews on these other books:

If you’ve already finished these stories, then please let me know what you think of them! It goes without saying that I’m also taking recommendations for what to read in 2017, so share your favorites in the comments!

Book reviews coming soon!

Book reviews coming soon!

Book Review: When in Doubt, Add Butter

Image via Goodreads

Rating: 3 out of 5

As the summer comes to a close, I like to soak up the sun with some good chick-lit: something cheerful, funny, and easy to read while laying by the pool.

Beth Harbison writes good chick-lit. I’ve already read Shoe Addicts Anonymous and Secrets of a Shoe Addict, so when I saw When in Doubt, Add Butter on sale, I picked it up without a thought.

This 2012 novel stars private chef Gemma Craig (no relation to Jenny Craig), who is struggling to make ends meet in Washington, D.C., while cooking for a different client each weekday. She works for an eclectic group of people, including a Russian psychic, a morbidly obese online poker player, and the uppity Van Houghtens who are ‘allergic’ to everything.

Then there’s the elusive Mr. Tuesday, nicknamed that by Gemma who has never actually seen the workaholic lawyer, but finds herself inexplicably attracted to him. What will happen when their paths finally cross–in the most surprising of ways?

I’ll admit that while I enjoyed this book, I could have been content if it remained a story about love and cooking. Unfortunately, Harbison throws in a few plot details that cost her a couple stars in my opinion.

One thing that I really don’t like is a bait-and-switch. When Gemma reveals that she became pregnant as a teenager and gave the baby up for adoption, I was immediately turned off. This is something that I believe should have been included in the book summary, especially since it’s mentioned so early in the story.

My blog followers should be well aware by now that I’m not a fan of kids. I’m childfree in life, and I prefer my reading to be as well. I love reading about love, but there’s nothing that makes me roll my eyes harder than when a romance novel ends with marriage and a baby carriage. It’s cliche as hell, and it promotes the stereotype that all women are dying to get hitched and knocked up.

Now don’t get me wrong–I’m not insulting the women who do value these things. There are more than enough books out there to support this domestic vision. But I’m also not going to hide the fact that I actively avoid chick-lit or romance novels with main characters dealing with issues related to having or raising children. Personal preferences are exactly that–personal.

My point is that I would have appreciated a heads up that I was getting into a book filled with guilt and angst over giving a child up for adoption (not to mention, another kid-related plot twist further into the novel).

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with adoption–or abortion or raising a child as a single mom, for that matter. But if you’re going to write about any of them, include them in the book summary, for goodness’ sake! Plenty of people will still read your book, just not me. This failure to divulge soured an otherwise lighthearted tale about bonding over butter, which is all I ever wanted.

For those who are looking for great chick-lit/romance without all the baby mama drama, check out the stand-alone novels of Sophie Kinsella and the U.S. Attorney series by Julie James.

 

My Most Anticipated Books of 2015

Happy New Year everybody! There’s nothing like starting the year off right with a good book, and 2015 is shaping up to have many good books in store for us!

I wanted to share my top five most anticipated books of 2015, so let’s get right to it!

All images via Goodreads

1. The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro, release date March 3. It’s been almost an entire decade since Ishiguro’s last novel Never Let Me Go, which was awarded TIME magazine’s ‘Best Book of 2005’ and listed in its ‘Top 100 Best English-Language Novels.’ The novel is also one of my absolute favorites, and after reading The Remains of the Day and When We Were Orphans, it’s safe to say that Ishiguro is one of my most admired authors. I can’t imagine The Buried Giant being anything less than extraordinary.

2. P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han, release date June 2 (cover art TBR). This sequel to To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before follows Lara Jean as she sorts out her feelings for Peter Kavinsky, the boy who blurred the lines between pretend and real boyfriend. With all the buzz in the book blogosphere, it’s clear that Han is a rising YA star with scores of devoted fans like me who are just itching to get their hands on this book!

3. China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan, release date June 16. Crazy Rich Asians was one of the most entertaining books I read in 2014, and I cannot wait for this sequel, which continues the story of Rachel Chu, the most envied girl in the Far East. Engaged to Asia’s most eligible billionaire bachelor, she tries to balance wedding planning among the uber-rich while searching for her estranged father in China. I’m so ready for this crazy whirlwind rollercoaster!

4. If I Could Turn Back Time by Beth Harbison, release date July 28. I can’t forget Beth Harbison, who has penned some great chick-lit. I enjoyed Shoe Addicts Anonymous and Secrets of a Shoe Addict, and I’ve got When in Doubt, Add Butter waiting for me on my bookshelf. This latest novel with “Freaky Friday” similarities sounds like a hoot. A 30-something waking up in her 18-year-old body after a boating accident? Count me in!

5. Rhiannon by David Levithan, release date unknown (cover art TBR). YA fans everywhere are hyperventilating over this companion book to Every Day, this time written from the perspective of A’s love interest Rhiannon. Every Day has to be the most unique romance that I have ever read, and I’m sure that Levithan will knock this book out of the park like he always does!

So that’s it! Which books are you most looking forward to in 2015? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Audiobook Review: Secrets of a Shoe Addict

Cover of "Secrets of a Shoe Addict"

Image via Amazon

Rating: 4 out of 5

Well, silly me, it looks like I dropped the ball on a couple of things. First off, I was told that “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” is indeed playing at an indie theater near me, so I’ll be checking it out tomorrow! Keep an eye out for that upcoming review!

Secondly, I didn’t take into account the audiobook I’ve been listening to when I asked for votes on my last five books of the year (I also forgot that I could create polls in WordPress, but that’s besides the point).

Thus, this review discusses book #21, and based on your input, the other four choices will be Artemis Fowl: The Last Guardian, My Week with Marilyn, The House of Mirth, and The Sandcastle Girls (reading order, however, is still tentative). Of course, I’d love to include a celebratory re-read of The Hobbit before its film release on December 14.

Anyways, Secrets of a Shoe Addict is Beth Harbison’s 2008 sequel to Shoe Addicts AnonymousWhile Sandra and her friends began the series with a meetup group for female shopaholics, it’s Sandra’s sister Tiffany’s turn to get a group of women out of financial trouble.

During a chaotic PTA trip to Vegas, Tiffany accidentally purchases thousands of dollars worth of clothes, while her friends run into money mayhem of their own–Loreen by inadvertently hiring a male prostitute and Abbey by being blackmailed by an ex-boyfriend fresh out of prison.

For those who read Shoe Addicts Anonymous, their solution is unsurprising: Sandra reveals that her previous job as a sex operator was a great way to earn cash fast, so the women decide to create an adult phone service called “Happy Housewives” to get them out of debt.

This book was an excellent sequel; it was funny, outlandish, and not shy at all regarding the dirty talk. As I’ve said before, I only wish there were multiple readers on an audiobook, as if it were a theater production, so the dialogue feels more natural.

However, what Harbison does well in chick-lit is writing characters for every possible stage in a person’s life. Single, married, separated–she covers it all with finesse. She also balances the realistic with the escapist nicely. Even if you’ve never gone on a date with a puppeteer or hired an escort, you’ll have a blast hearing about these characters who do.

My only complaint would be the pacing, since once the conflict felt resolved, it took quite a while for the ends to get tied up. It took me over eight hours to finish the 26 chapters of this audiobook, and although the majority of it was entertaining, I felt the last few chapters were anticlimactic.

I know that most of you don’t read chick-lit, but if you ever want to step outside your comfort zone, Harbison’s a good author to try. Secrets of a Shoe Addict was a fun story of female friendship, and as an audiobook, a great way to pass the time–whether you’re battling morning rush hour, cooking dinner, or relaxing in bed. Perfect for sneaking more books into your busy schedule!

Book Review: Shoe Addicts Anonymous

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

My second of my birthday gift books is a chick-lit novel by Beth Harbison called Shoe Addicts Anonymous. It follows four women in Washington, D.C., and their hardships with work and relationships as they bond over swapping their designer shoes every week.

Here’s a little tidbit about each of the characters:

  • Lorna Rafferty: A waitress who creates the Shoe Addicts Anonymous group after realizing that if she doesn’t stop her shopaholic ways, she’ll be click-clacking in her heels all the way to bankruptcy.
  • Helene Zaharis: Wife of a controlling, cheating, lying scumbag of a politician husband. He freezes her credit cards as punishment for not giving a him a baby to help his publicity, so she joins the group to gain independence–and shoes.
  • Sandra Vanderslice: A very obese woman who’s so afraid to leave her house, she works as a phone-sex operator to pay for all her online shoe shopping. Joining the group is her attempt at overcoming her agoraphobia.
  • Jocelyn Bowen: A 20-something nanny who doesn’t care about shoes, but joins the group to escape her bitchy employer. She doesn’t wear the required 7.5 size of the group, but she’s willing to buy vintage Guccis at Goodwill in exchange for freedom and friendship.

I loved this book; it was a fun, lighthearted read that still discussed serious subjects, like debt and betrayal. All the characters were endearing, and I cheered them all on as they overcame their obstacles. The women weren’t like Carrie and friends in “Sex and the City,” but I could still relate to them all, from Helene’s nostalgia to Jocelyn’s desire to please.

My only complaint was that it took too much time to bring all the characters together. The chapters started off describing the women individually, and Jocelyn doesn’t appear until after 100 pages. But learning about their backgrounds was worth watching their friendship in the group grow.

Any lover of chick-lit should read this book. I also plan on checking out its sequel Secrets of a Shoe Addict, which follows Sandra’s sister Tiffany.

A quick Google search also revealed that Halle Berry would star in a movie adaptation of this novel, but no news has come out recently–probably due to Halle’s domestic disputes over custody of her daughter. I hope she can sort out her personal life soon and that this project hasn’t been canned completely!

All in all, both birthday books were excellent picks! What an enjoyable way to celebrate another year of life–surrounded by great books!