The Daughters, by Joanna Philbin

  • Title: The Daughters
  • Author: Joanna Philbin (could NOT find an author website. lame.)
  • Published: May, 2010
  • Pages: 288 pages (Hardcover)
  • Genre: Young Adult
  • Standalone or series: First in a planned series of three. 
  • Why I read it: Saw a review in People magazine.
  • Source: Library.

Yes, this is by Regis Philbin’s daughter, so one can assume the author has experienced some of what her characters go through as all three girls in this series are daughters of mega-famous parents. The first book in the series mainly follows Lizzie Summers – picture her mom as a Christie Brinkley/Cindy Crawford/Heidi Klum type. Except Lizzie doesn’t look one teensiest tinyest bit like a super model. Tall and gangly in a not-thin way with frizzy red hair, Lizzie would rather have her crooked nose buried in The Great Gatsby than have anything to do with her mother’s world of fashion. But her mother seems absolutely oblivious to Lizzie’s looks and awkwardness and blithely drags her along to red carpet events where she is shunned repeatedly by the photographers. Any photos of her that do end up online are inevitably mocked by snarky celebrity bloggers. Then Lizzie starts to think that her mom is worse than oblivious, maybe she not only doesn’t understand her daughter in the least, but could she be using Lizzie to make herself look better in pictures?

That type of self-doubt, lack of communication and understanding with your parents, growing into your body, and teen angst are all very typical symptoms and drama of that stage in any girl’s life, but throw into that already-terrible mix being a daughter of a celebrity! It definitely intensifies things!

The teenage viewpoint is one of the things I think Philbin captured best in her debut novel. For example, Lizzie’s childhood crush, Todd, moved away to London for several years but now is back, more gorgeous than ever, and going to her high school! Of course she needs any excuse to be near him and her strategy is to get dibs on being his tour guide the first day of school.

While things start off like OMGsoawesome (hey he’s reading and loving the Great Gatsby too! and they both want to be writers!) of course rivals for his attention come up, and Lizzie’s own issues get in the way of their blossoming friendship. In the teenage world one drop-by your locker, one phone call, one facebook message makes a big difference, so only weeks after her heartfelt petition to be his tour guide Lizzie and he are avoiding each other. I loved this quote showing this type of transparent-to-us teenage drama, but that is SO. VERY. IMPORTANT to them:

“Lizzie Summers,” Mr Barlow barked. “You’re with Todd Piedmont. You’ll be doing Cupid and Psyche. The love myth.”

Somebody, somewhere giggled. Lizzie looked straight down, feeling her cheeks burn…

[After class ended] she sprinted out of the room, walked into Mr. Barlow’s office, and shut the door.

“Is there a problem, Miss. Summers?” he asked wryly, reading a few phone messages on his desk.

“You can’t put me with Todd!” she exclaimed.

He stifled a smile. “But just the other day you were begging me to be his tour guide,” he said.

“That was three weeks ago,” she said. “Everything’s different now. Everything.”

However, I thought the book overall was more fluffy than deep. There were so many angles that could have had more depth, such as when Lizzie takes steps to be more comfortable in front of the cameras. Her modeling sessions were described so vaguely to me, and in missing those details I missed the emotional connection with Lizzie and how she was changing.

Also central to teenage life is school and again, their exclusive private school got NO description, not what it looked like, what her homework was like, what the atmosphere was like there, and I was disappointed. Granted, New York City was depicted in greater detail and while these girls enjoy their wealth around the city and we get to know their penthouses and mansions pretty well, I still thought the school should get more attention.

Lastly, Lizzie gets into Trouble a few times with her parents and I didn’t see any real consequences. She was grounded for a little bit, but when a school dance comes up and Lizzie goes one of her friends says, “Hey, aren’t you grounded” and her response was a casual, “Oh yeah, they ended it early so I could go to this dance.” Although when she gets into Trouble at school I appreciated the way her teachers handled it – Lizzie’s mistake caused her to miss out on a big writing opportunity which was very important to her.

This first installment of a series about girls finding their own identities separate from their parents’ has some good moments, and poignant insight into teenage drama. I would recommend it for middle-school aged girls or as a potential beach or pool read as I didn’t feel it had the depth or emotional connection to stimulate more mature readers.

The next books will follow Lizzie’s two best friends who already had quite a bit of set-up in The Daughters: Carina, daughter of an overbearing billionaire-tycoon father, and Hudson whose mom is a  brittle, selfish chart topping pop icon.

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A negative comparison

If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all…

Well today is opposite day for me then, because I don’t have the nicest things to say right now. A few of my recent reads just did NOT work for me.

Here is the problem, I just read one of the greatest books ever written, easily one of the best romance novels of all time. So now maybe the ones I read around it just pale in comparison?

Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase is beloved by male mathematicians and ranks first with thousands of romance readers. You see, the Hero? Is perfectly wretched, and wretchedly perfect for our Heroine. And she? Is awesomely cool, and coolly (sp?) awesome.

lordofscoundrels

Original lusty cover in 1995 and gorgeous recent reissue

I lost my copy sometime in college between all the dormroom moves and just bought a new one and reread it as SOON as it came in the mail last week. So the 2 books I read before it and 1 book after it just did come come anywhere NEAR as good.

So that is my preface. For why. These books didn’t really work for me.

n292489Laced with Magic, by Barbara Bretton – It took me a while to get into this one since I hadn’t read the first book Casting Spells as I got Laced with Magic for free as part of a random pile at RWA. So for the first few chapters I gave it a break. Maybe it just wasn’t working since I missed the set up in the first one. But then as I slogged through 100 pages, 150 pages, and onwards and nothing got better? I came to the conclusion that the world building was really shallow. The characterization was really shallow. And the switching back and forth between THREE first person narrative point of views (H/H and random 3rd character) maintained that shallowness. This is a hidden magical town in the beautiful Vermont countryside and the “Heroine” Chloe was supposed to be a sorceress in training. But almost nothing about her craft, how she learned the spells, the history of magic in her family, how she conjured up her powers, how it felt to her was ever explained in detail. The non-magical Hero was secretly planning on moving back to Boston the entire book and I really never got a strong sense for why he should bother to stay, his romance with Chloe was also…well…shallow to me. The last straw was when one of those three people who was telling the story from their point of view was *Spoiler*

*

KILLED in the last chapter. And not only that, but guess what?!? The other two main characters barely gave it a second thought. The person who dies got ONE LINE of reflection from the others. They just said, “Oh well, they’re in a better place now.”

*End Spoiler* It was just so BLAH. I would only recommend reading it if you just adored the first book, but I already put this in my “to be donated to the library” pile.

38007395My Wicked Marquess, by Gaelen Foley – I adore Ms. Foley, heck I wanted to read her books so bad I borrowed them in large print from the library. But this one fell flat for me. Heidenkind’s un-review mirrors some of my thoughts, and as I commented on her post the real problem with this book was that I just couldn’t take it seriously! I was laughing AT it, certainly not WITH it, and I’m pretty sure it was supposed to be deep with a level of gravity given that the Hero was a trained, heartless, ruthless killer with razor sharp intellect. But his “secret club to protect the biggest secrets of Good versus Evil” a la Knights of Columbus seemed laughable to me. Their little club house reminded more of a little boys tree house with a “no girls allowed” sign. I mean Son of the Morning and The Da Vinci Code created a Brotherhood way cooler and more serious sounding that these guys. I was not impressed.

n306150Lord of Pleasure, by Delilah Marvelle – Have you ever taken a big gulp of soda expecting it to be Coke but really it was Root Beer? When that’s happened to me I find it just tastes HORRIBLE. I’m trying to explain how I expected one thing from Lord of Pleasure and when it wasn’t what I expected…I just didn’t like it.

So maybe if you check on my thoughts and know what to expect, it will be better for you.

I wanted to like this one, soooo badly for a multitude of reasons, number one of which being that I personally adore Ms. Marvelle. HOWEVER, I was expecting a traditional Regency with a bit of a naughty side, but instead this read more as a “fantasy historical” in that it such high fantasy beyond historical reality that I could not suspend my disbelief. Even though the heroine, Charlotte, is in Dire Straits, it still wasn’t believable enough for me why a Proper Woman of Society would work for a Not So Secret Sex School. The part that really seemed like fantasy was in her role as an Interviewer for the Sex School she got to ask the Hero all sorts of questions about his sexual history, about losing his virginity, threesomes, experience with toys, it was sort of a fantasy scene, like “don’t you wish you could ask your crush about his sexual past?” And the Hero’s family was CAH-RAZY sex obsessed, his mom was widowed and livin it up with lovers and “champagne parties” that her whole family knew about, she talked openly about sexual stuff in front her four daughters (teenagers and tweens), and they also know how cah-razy she had their dad had been when they were married with having THREESOMES with the lady who was running the Sex School now.

And YES I know some part of all romances are fantasy and don’t stick too close to reality, but what I love about Regencies is the “comedy of manners” and sharp drawing room dialogue fraught with innuendos while in public.

Lastly the word “snapped” was suuuuper over used. She snapped her hand up, he snapped his eyes to her, she snapped up straight, he snapped his hand towards her…Oy, enough with the snapping!

************

PHEW it felt good to get that out. /Rant

I really don’t like writing so much negative stuff at once, but these books have also gotten good reviews plenty of other places so I urge you to formulate your own opinions!

The Matchmaker of Périgord, by Julia Stuart

matchmaker of perigord

Title: The Matchmaker of Périgord

Author: Julia Stuart

Genre: Literary fiction (and I think dabbling in the burgeoning food-lit genre too)

Publisher: Harper Collins

Release Date: August 5th, 2008

Paperback: 318 pages

Stand alone or series: stand alone

Why did I read this book: I saw it on the end-cap facing out on the new releases shelf of my library. The cover art first caught my eye, followed up the blurb on the jacket saying, “For any reader who adored Chocolat…” Ok FINE I did not read Chocolat but I saw the movie and adored that! So there *glowering huffily*

Summary:Barber Guillaume Ladoucette has always enjoyed great success in his tiny village in southwestern France, catering to the tonsorial needs of Amour-sur-Belle’s thirty-three inhabitants. But times have changed. His customers have grown older—and balder. Suddenly there is no longer a call for Guillaume’s particular services, and he is forced to make a drastic career change. Since love and companionship are necessary commodities at any age, he becomes Amour-sur-Belle’s official matchmaker and intends to unite hearts as ably as he once cut hair. But alas, Guillaume is not nearly as accomplished an agent of amour, as the disastrous results of his initial attempts amply prove, especially when it comes to arranging his own romantic future.

Review: Ms. Stuart introduces us to the inappropriately named town of Amour-sur-Belle as there is no amour to be found. We follow middle-aged protagonist Guillaume Ladoucetteas he transitions from his lifetime passion and career of barbering to being the village with a population of thirty-three’s (33) match-maker. Along the way Guillaume’s childhood love returns as a divorcee to the village and joins the cast of crazy, eccentric, gossipy, food obsessed characters that make up this tiny hamlet.

There were quite a few laugh out loud moments with constant comedies of errors, family feuds, grudges, nicknames (such as the mushroom poisoner) and and also a few salivary moments as Ms. Stuart did not skimp on food descriptions. I want that goat cheese tart infused with walnut oil from the abbey!

Actually Ms. Stuart did not skimp on ANY descriptions and that was my main gripe with the novel. Every new room/street/house/garden that Guillaume walked into was written in extreme detail, so much so that I thought, “There must be a purpose, is this foreshadowing?” But as much as I appreciated being shown what surrounded Guillaume and what his village/home/shop/car looked like, ultimately it got boring and was too wordy. For example:

Above the bath taps was a set of shelves bearing a collection of exquisite gentlemens’ soaps. The bottom row was reserved for those he deemed too splendid to use, which were simply taken out of their boxes and sniffed. Next to the taps was a large loofah and a natural sponge containing two chest hairs. Lined up on top of the small marble-topped table by the sink was a razor in it’s box, a blue shaving mug that had belonged to his father and a badger-hair shaving brush with an ivory handle.

Besides the soap “too splendid to use” (I have totally saved soap/lotion like this before) none of the other items needed description in such detail. And this is the way EVERY SHELF in his basement was treated, every row of vegetables in his garden was treated, etc. It was too much.

With all this detail I DID get a really vivid picture of the village and it’s inhabitants, which I appreciated, but then so much of the description kept being repeated. Did Ms. Stuart think we would forget? She copied phrases and entire paragraphs word for word five, six, seven times. Some examples:

supermarket leather sandals 

crawled his hairy toes

scandalous ramparts

(s)he wore an ancient dress cut off at the knees and her hair twisted up with something sparkly

And whenever a new character was introduced we learned their entire life history, their parents names, occupations, how they did in elementary school, who their first kiss was, did they cheat on their spouse, how were they caught, were they happy, etc… Each villager was SO QUIRKY and SO INTERESTING that I wanted to know about them, their story needed to be told, but it made the narrative flow very choppy.

I would recommend this book to someone who loves to travel and loves France (both of which I adore) but this is not a “chick lit” book for everyone.

Notable quotes/parts: I LOVED how Guillaume went to the doctor and they diagnosed him immediately with a “broken heart” for all the unshed tears they could see in his throat and ears. This was a powerful description for me, even though it was a bit fantastical in an otherwise very down to earth novel.

Verdict: Loved the anecdotes about eccentric characters, but would have made a better short story about JUST Guillaume, or collection of short stories, with less repetition.

Grade: C

The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger

timetravelerswife2This past weekend I finished The Time Traveler’s Wife in two days. The saga definitely needs a quiet few days to get through the almost 600 pages. I know I connected with the characters and their romance because I SOBBED through the last 30 pages, so much so that after I finished the last page I sought solace in hubby’s arms as I continued to bawl thinking about it.

Which is weird because I thought I didn’t even LIKE the main characters Clare and Henry. After my tears dried I reflected…and stalled on writing this blog post…and ultimately decided I DID NOT like Clare and Henry, and would not read this book again. The ending may have evoked a strong emotional response from me, but analytically there were more “cons” than “pros” in the story for me.

Number 1 worst possible thing that turned me off by page 57 (its so near the beginning of the book that this is NOT a spoiler I promise):

Henry time travels against his will, like epilepsy, with no control as to where or when he goes. Most of the time he travels to the past and will occasionally run into his past self. When he was a teenagerand time traveled only a few months and hung out with his teenaged self they hooked up.

You read that right, he had sex with himself. SICK! Niffenegger wrote it like it was natural, like they had nothing else to do, were horny teenagers and didn’t have a girlfriend. I couldn’t believe my eyes as I read that scene, so obvi I had to read it out loud for hubby to make sure I wasn’t misunderstanding. Hubby’s response? “That’s why you shouldn’t read romance novels.” And I was all, “Dude this isn’t even a romance novel! This would NEVER happen in one of my happily ever after books!”

So from then on I was sooo squicked out by Henry. Which continued when he time traveled and met his wife  Clare when she was 6 years old. He time traveled back to Clare’s house numerous time throughout her childhood and while it started out platonic eventually when she was a teenager and he was a 40 year old time traveling man it became romantic. Even though he knew he was married to her in the future it still felt skeevy to me.

Another “con” for me. Lots of people know Henry time travels, well like 10, but that seems like a lot! His dad, his neighbor, a few close friends, his doctor and his work colleagues! And NO ONE said anything to the media. He was NEVER OUTED. No special attention. That was so unrealistic to me. Even when people didn’t believe him, or when he was picked up multiple times by the cops, he never got in trouble.

Last complaint: Henry and Clare were too hipster cool for me, quoting literature, going to indie/punk concerts, being all proletariat-artsy-fartsy, it seemed fake…and if it wasn’t fake then they were tools.

Ok for the good stuff: This is the 4th time travel books I read in 2 weeks and the way and reason Henry time travels is awesome, the best out of all 4. So creative, unique and just…cool. Well sort of a curse for him, but so well done. He has a “rare genetic disorder, Chronic Displacement” and the scenes describing how he time travels, what it feels like, what he can and can’t do, and ultimately how doctors/scientists diagnose it were my favorite ones.

How very sci-fi of me, which is surprising. 

I loved how Clare and Henry’s relationship and marriage developed once they met in the “present” time and they were both in their twenties. That’s when I connected the most with their romance, their struggles, and how they created their home and family. Their love seemed tangible to me, and especially with Henry’s special circumstances, it seemed even more powerful, like true soul mates and all that.

So is this a good book? Yes. Did I love it? No, C+ for me. Should you read it? Your call, there are millions of squeeing reviews bowing in adoration out there, so go for it.

For anyone who has read it I have a question slash opinion that is a massive spoiler, check it out after the jump… Continue reading

I Picked Up Two Lovers in Madison Square Garden

The other weekend I went to visit my bestie, J, by taking the preferred form of transportation of any hipster/yuppie going from DC to NYC – the bus. Chinatown to Chinatown is so passe, the most popular ones now that I have tried are Vamoose and DC2NY, and I haven’t had much need to complain. This trip was no different, but I had an especially good ride home since I had an excellent experience at the Borders in Madison Square Garden while waiting for the bus to come!

I marched in, TBR list in hand, proud of my recent newfound knowledge that I apparently enjoyed reading the sci-fi/fantasy genre, and had 10 minutes to find the top 2 books on my list. I found the sci-fi/fantasy section immediately but couldn’t find the books I wanted; the store was HUGE and I did not want to be late for the bus and fight the masses in line to get a good seat. So to the customer service desk I went!

There I met the most helpful, friendly, romance-knowledgeable Border’s person I’ve ever come across. She was also in her mid- 20’s, cute in a dorky way, awkward hand gestures, smudged glasses, lots of eyeliner, and a neon violet top, and was so eager to help. When I told her the 2 books I had trouble finding she replied with “OOOh that’s cuz they are in the Romance section, I love those books, have you read x,y,z yet?” Wait what? I always go to the Romance section first but my experience with Sookie Stackhouse made me all backwards! How awkward of me.

As we walked down the romance aisle she made multiple recommendations, pulled 7 books off the shelves, filled me in on the order of certain series…we were getting along swimmingly, and then…she asked if we could trade email addresses so she could share future recommendations with me.

The aloof city dweller in me immediately shot her down, gesturing to my TBR list of 30 books, giving the excuse that obvi I did not need her recs (but I’m always looking for new recs! What a sad excuse for not wanting to give out my email) She looked dejected and I was immediately sorry, but couldn’t change my mind. It was just a gut reaction and now I feel bad about it.

What is wrong with me, this is exactly why I started this blog!

But thank you anways Border’s Girl! You were a fabulous help, gave me great recs (but I couldnt buy all 7 books or hubby’d kill me, I already spent too much $$$$ in the City), and I really liked you! If anyone is ever in NYC looking for a paranormal romance, she is your gal!

So what did I leave the store with? Yes, that’s right, I picked up two lovers to entertain me: Fantasy Lover by Sherrilyn Kenyon and Dark Lover by J. R. Ward. Read on for my thoughts:

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