Nobody’s Baby But Mine by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
(William Morrow, 2012, 382 pages)
I’ll be the first to say it, the title of this book definitely made me cringe. But like I said earlier, I love Susan Elizabeth Phillips’s writing style, so I was willing to look past the title for the sake of the story.
Jane is a genius – she’s a physicist who has always seen herself as an outsider because she was always treated that way. Now she’s in her 30s and she finds that she’s ready to have a baby. The problem with that is there’s no man in her life who can help make that a reality. Why not use a sperm bank? Because those making donations are typically med students and Jane wants a child with someone a little lower on the intelligence scale. She doesn’t want her child to grow up the same way she did, feeling like a freak. So when she happens to catch a glimpse of Chicago Stars quarterback, Cal Bonner, giving an interview with his thick southern accent and lack of manners she is determined he will be the man who fathers her child.
The way Jane decides to go about getting pregnant is far from moral, but she has a plan and she intends to see it through. Besides, she doesn’t want the father in her life, she doesn’t need the money, why does he even have to know…? Unfortunately, when Cal finds out about Jane’s scheming he refuses to follow the plan she has laid out. And Cal is far from the dense jock who lives off his body and his looks that Jane thinks he is…
This was a quick read, but I wasn’t a fan of the actual plot. Unlike most of her other books, this novel by Phillips was a little off-putting for me. And I *rarely* feel romance-novel-reading shame, but with this title I have to admit I was a little embarrassed whipping it out. Obviously I’ll give her another shot – but if you’re looking to start reading Susan Elizabeth Phillips, I would recommend some of her other titles before this one.
Lady Be Good by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
(William Morrow, 2011, 372 pages)
There are few things I enjoy more than a lazy weekend where I can just do whatever I want – thanks to this past weekend I was able to finish Lady Be Good in a day because all I wanted to do was lounge and read. Lady Emma recently arrived in Texas from England to get some work done on an article she’s writing for a historical journal. She had initially reached out to her friend Francesca, who lived in the area, but due to conflicting schedules Francesca arranged for her friend Kenny to handle picking Emma up and driving her around. Kenny is a professional golfer who has recently been put on probation after some scandalous behavior so he has nothing to keep himself occupied… until Emma comes into his life.
Emma has one goal while she’s in Texas, she wants to do what she can to ruin her squeaky clean image. Unfortunately, since Kenny is working on rehabilitating his image the two aren’t really on the same page with how Emma’s visit will play out. There’s definitely an attraction between the two of them, and that’s hard to forget given that Kenny had pretended he was a male escort upon first meeting Emma and she’d planned on taking him up on his offer for a night of… “fun.” Who knows where things could lead when these two hard-headed individuals, hell-bent on changing their images, find themselves forced to spend two weeks together under the same roof.
Susan Elizabeth Phillips has a great writing style that ropes you in quickly. She also does a good job creating likable and fleshed-out characters. This was a fun, light, romantic read for the weekend.
The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin
(Delacorte Press, 2013, 416 pages)
The Aviator’s Wife focuses on Anne Lindbergh, wife of the noted aviator, Charles Lindbergh. Told from her point of view the reader relives Anne’s last days with Charles while she reflects back on their life together. We see the relationship between the Lindberghs grow and change from the beginning of their courtship to the end of Charles’s life. Key historical elements of their life are highlighted and offer the reader a glimpse into what went on behind the camera flashes. We go through what it was like being an obsession of the public, the kidnapping of their firstborn son, Charles’s anti-Semitism and Nazi “sympathizing,” Anne’s famous book A Gift from the Sea, etc. Charles was very much the head of the household and he wanted things to be “just so.” He was also very aware of himself as a public figure which only seemed to lend itself to his greater need for control.
As far as historical fiction goes, I think this did a wonderful job in making the reader want to learn more about the individuals portrayed. I was so intrigued by Anne and Charles, but particularly Charles. Until reading this book the only thing I really thought about him was his famous flight across the ocean and the kidnapping of his child, but I knew nothing about his intense personality and how it impacted his marriage and family life. If you enjoy historical fiction, particularly that which revolves around lesser-represented famous people, you’ll appreciate this book. I certainly enjoyed it.
Trains and Lovers by Alexander McCall Smith
(Pantheon Books, 2012, 239 pages)
I checked out the book because the first few lines grabbed my attention; and I always love train travel. Also, the author’s name sounded familiar so I Googled him. Alexander McCall Smith is a prolific English writer of several series of novels and children books. He was a former medical law professor at the University of Edinburgh.
Trains and Lovers is set on a train running from Edinburgh to London. Four strangers meet on the train and strike up conversations. Over the course of the trip, they share how love has influenced and affected their lives. Kay, an Australian, is in her 50’s and is visiting her father’s birthplace. Hers is a heart-touching story of her parents’ meeting, marriage and life in Australia, and her love for her parents. Hugh and Andrew are English and in their 20s. They each have a girlfriend and are hitting a few bumps in searching for The One. David, in his 40s, a professor from Buffalo N.Y. conferencing in Scotland, is on his way to London to catch a flight back to U.S. He has not been able to express his feelings to his one true love. David’s story is sad but beautiful. Smith uses a third person narrator to tell the stories. I adapted to it quickly and enjoyed it. I was surprised at how the narrations intertwined effortlessly with the tales of the four strangers’ parents and friends. The stories are sentimental and intriguing with just a touch of mystery. A fun, romantic read.
Set Up in SoHo by Dee Davis
(St. Martin’s Griffin, 2009, 320 pages)
Based on the summary I thought I’d enjoy Set Up in SoHo a lot more than I did. I’ve been in kind of a light/romance mood lately and this seemed like a title I’d like. Unfortunately the writing didn’t live up to my expectations. Set in New York City, Andi has her own cooking show that combines gossip, cooking, and restaurant reviews. She’s eager to take things to the next level and make it to prime time television. Right around the time this could be a reality, however, she discovers that her long-term boyfriend has been cheating on her with a socialite she detests. In her rush to get away from him Andi winds up falling down a sidewalk shaft and getting rescued by a handsome stranger, Ethan.
After Ethan drops her off at the hospital Andi is surprised when they have another accidental run-in. They mutually agree on a date and the chemistry is definitely there, even though Andi’s hesitant to hop into anything after her recent break-up. This is especially true when she finds out Ethan comes from one of the wealthiest families in Manhattan. While she also comes from money, she’s pretty against dating anyone else from that societal realm. In the midst of all this, Andi’s other friends are coupling up thanks to the help of Andi’s matchmaker aunt, Althea. Andi hates when Althea noses her way into other people’s love lives and has always had a somewhat combative relationship with her aunt. When Althea finds out about Ethan Andi does everything she can to try and keep them apart – but she might be surprised to find out the two have already met…
This had a lot of the elements I like in a story, but Davis’s writing style just didn’t suck me in. I wasn’t at all invested in any of the characters and I just didn’t feel like the writing matched the plot. This is definitely more chick-lit than romance, so if you’re looking for some *heat* I’d advise you to look elsewhere. Guess I need to get back to Susan Elizabeth Phillips 😉
The Blue Bistro by Elin Hilderbrand
(St. Martin’s Press, 2005, 321 pages)
Adrienne has spent her life constantly moving from one place to another, making sure to never get too attached. So after she catches her boyfriend stealing from her, Adrienne moves again to Nantucket in search for another hotel job. Instead she finds work as the assistant manager at the Blue Bistro, which is entering its final season being open. Adrienne is instantly attracted Thatcher, the owner, but he seems to have a strange relationship with the chef Fiona that Adrienne just can’t seem to figure out.
I am so glad I saved this book for my plane ride back from vacation. It was an easy and fast read but kept my attention enough that I could ignore the uncomfortableness of the plane. The Blue Bistro seemed like an awesome place to eat and I found myself sad that is was a fictional restaurant. I also liked that I knew what was going to happen but I didn’t figure out how it was going to come about, if that makes sense. In the beginning, it was obvious that Adrienne was a nomad with very few connections and it was nice to see her grow and build relationships with people throughout the book.
Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan
(Alfred A. Knopf, 2011, 388 pages)
If you didn’t know it, you couldn’t guess that Alice, Kathleen, Ann Marie, and Maggie are a part of the same family. Their personalities clash and their outlooks on life are from different worlds. Alice is the grandmother who is always quick to judge and free to speak her mind. After the death of her sister, she spent her life dedicated to the church and trying to forget her sins. Kathleen, Alice’s daughter, grew up resenting her mother and her badgering. Kathleen is a divorced, recovering alcoholic and moved across the country to a worm farm to escape her family. Ann Marie is Alice’s daughter-in-law and is constantly striving to provide for everyone around her. Now that all her children have moved out, she fills her time with doll houses and a scandalous crush. Maggie is Kathleen’s daughter who is struggling with the news that she is pregnant and trying to keep the peace with her boyfriend long enough to tell him. One of the few things they have in common that summer is the family’s Maine beach house and the closure it brings.
This is the second book I’ve read from Sullivan and I really enjoy her writing style. I love how she takes four people that seem completely different and connects them all in some way. It’s really interesting how she builds her characters and their storylines. Out of the four characters, I probably couldn’t pick one favorite because I loved them all. I love Alice’s snarkiness, Kathleen’s independence, Ann Marie’s innocence, and Maggie’s devotion. This was a great end of the summer beach read that kept me entertained through every page.
You can also check out Julia’s review.
Away by Amy Bloom
(Random House, 2007, 265 pages)
Lillian moved to America to start her life over after her entire family, including her daughter, were murdered in the middle of the night. Lillian tries to adjust and survive in her new world while fighting off dreams of that horrific night. She quickly becomes the mistress of a popular actor Meyer Burstein, who has secrets of his own to keep hidden, and his father, Reuben. Lillian’s expenses are taken care of by both men and she seems to have found temporary relief from her struggles. But when her cousin shows up with the news that her daughter was not killed that night but managed to escape with the neighbor family, Lillian leaves it all behind and risks her life to be reunited with her daughter.
This wasn’t my favorite read. I appreciated the history and the emotion that Bloom packed into the novel but I didn’t enjoy seeing the situations that Lillian got herself in. Most of the relationships that Lillian or other minor characters get involved in can only be described as icky. I also wasn’t a fan of how Bloom switched up the dialogue format. There were quite a few times that I had to double check who was speaking or even if what was being said was out loud. One of the few things I did enjoy is that once a character was being written out of the story, Bloom would provide a brief synopsis on what happened to the character in the future.
A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis
(Harper & Row, 1989, 89 pages)
C. S. Lewis wrote two different books on the topics of pain and suffering. The first, The Problem of Pain, was published in 1940, sixteen years prior to his marriage to Joy Davidman. The second, A Grief Observed, was published a year after cancer brought a painful end to Davidman’s life in 1960. Each book has a particular line which typifies its approach to the subject. In The Problem of Pain Lewis tells us that “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” In A Grief Observed, Lewis begins with this chilling line: “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear” (15). In the first book Lewis looks at the intellectual issues surrounding the problem of suffering and argues that pain is a tool that God uses, one whose good we are not in a position to fully comprehend. In the second book Lewis documents the fresh wound of his grief, angered by the pain and uncertain of the answers he once thought he had.
A Grief Observed is a remarkable book. It deals not only with the theoretical problems of suffering but gives expression to grief in its various stages and shades. More than this though, Lewis grapples with what it means to be creatures which exist beyond death. It explores the intersection of the spheres, heavenly and earthly, supernatural and natural, through the experience of loss, pain, and fear. For Lewis, grief is not a problem to be solved, but a process through which we must travel. It is a process which evidences something of the inexplicable and mysterious quality of the world in which we live.
The Intellectual World of C. S. Lewis by Alister E. McGrath
(Wiley-Blackwell, 2013, 206 pages)
This is a book of scholarly (yet accessible) essays that Alister McGrath has written as an extension of the research that went into his biography, C. S. Lewis: A Life. McGrath delves more deeply into some of the issues that he touches on in the biography, like the reliability and purpose of Lewis’ autobiography, Surprised by Joy, Lewis’ apologetic method, the Oxford philosophical context which shaped Lewis, and Lewis’ religious identity and status as a theologian.
The Intellectual World of C. S. Lewis is one more sign that Lewis is increasingly viewed, not simply as an intelligent writer of popular books, but as an important figure in the intellectual landscape of the twentieth century. Casual fans of Lewis’ Narnia books may not find this volume worth their time, but those familiar the broader range of Lewis’ writings will benefit from the context and critical engagement that McGrath provides. Some of the material became a bit repetitive, especially in light of cursory treatments of most of these subjects in the biography. I found the final two essays, “A ‘Mere Christian’: Anglicanism and Lewis’s Religious Identity,” and “Outside the ‘Inner Ring’: Lewis as a Theologian,” to be the most interesting and helpful. This was in part because these essays contained the least amount of overlap with McGrath’s previously published material, and in part because they dealt well with issues regarding Lewis’ legacy on which there are widely divergent opinions.