Monday, July 26, 2010

Review: Seven Year Switch by Claire Cook

About Seven Year Switch:

Jill Murray is content living a man-free existence. She’s got Anastasia, her ten-year-old daughter, and a sweet little bungalow to call home. Life as a cultural coach didn’t turn out quite the way she planned, but between answering phones for Great Girlfriend Getaways and teaching Lunch Around the World classes, the dust in this Jill-of-all-trades life is starting to settle.

Then her ex-husband comes back.

They say that every seven years you become a completely new person, and Jill has long ago stopped wishing her deadbeat husband would return. Now she has to face the fact there’s simply no way she can be a good mom without letting Seth back into their daughter’s life. But why can’t she seem to hold herself together around him? And then there’s Billy, the free-spirited, bike-riding entrepreneur who hires Jill as a consultant. When their business relationship seems destined for something more Jill’s no-boys-allowed life is suddenly anything but.

It takes a Costa Rican getaway to help Jill make her choice — between the woman she is and the woman she wants to be.

My Thoughts:

Seven Year Switch by Claire Cook is the perfect summer getaway book! It's pure summer fun as we experience a slice of life through the eyes of Jill Murray who is a creative, yet struggling single mom of a ten year old daughter Anastasia. Her estranged husband Seth abandoned them seven years ago.  Jill has a rhythm to her life and she has finally met a man that interests her. Whe she is starting to settle into a life that has it's challenges but is predictable...Seth suddenly shows up, seven years later. Here's a quote from the book that I found interesting:

"There are seven types of intelligence and seven habits for highly effective people. Hollywood has Seventh Heaven and The Seven Year Itch. There's even a New Age notion that every seven years you shed your skin and become a completely new person, sort of a seven year switch." pg. 20

Anastasia is thrilled to have her daddy back in her life but Jill has to figure out how to handle this situation and the mixture of emotions she holds in her heart.

I loved the stories of Jill's Lunch around the World classes at the senior center where she linked learning about food and culture and made it so much fun for the students. Every class was a theme related to food from a certain culture such as Thai food, Hawaiian food etc. The characters were a blast, funny and quite protective of Jill. Jill also worked at Great Girlfriends Getaways where she was able to work from home taking phone calls from prospective women who wanted to learn about wonderful girlfriend getaways. Jill's conversations also tied to culture and different countries and were a hoot to read about.

Ms. Cook  creates a cast of characters in Seven Year Switch that are full of imperfections, funny, sassy and wise. This is one of the best summer books that I've read in a long time as it made me laugh and think, it's definitely not a fluffy book! I believe that women will connect to Jill and the story in Seven Year Switch. It's an inspiring story of love, finding inner strength, and discovering it's never too late to start over. I highly recommend that you get a copy of Seven Year Switch, you won't be disapointed. This would make a great book to discuss with a book club, you can find Book Club Conversation Starters, here.

I have to admit that this is the first book that I've read by Claire Cook and I don't know how that has happened! I can tell you that I'll definitely be reading more of her books and the next one will be The Wildwater Walking Club, which I have waiting to be read on my bookshelf. I can't wait!

Check out this great book trailer for Seven Year Switch:

Claire Cook is the bestselling author of seven novels, including Must Love Dogs, which was adapted into a Warner Bros. movie starring Diane Lane and John Cusack, The Wildwater Walking Club, Life’s a Beach, and her latest, Seven Year Switch. Her reinvention workshops have been featured on The Today Show, and she has been a judge for the Thurber Humor Prize and the Family Circle fiction contest. Her books have been featured on Good Morning America and in People, Good Housekeeping, Redbook and more. She has two kids, seven brothers and sisters, and one husband. She lives in Scituate, MA.

Visit her website and find reinvention and writing tips at Friend her on Facebook at Follow her on Twitter at

You can read an excerpt of Chapter One from Seven Year Switch, Here.

Claire Cook is virtually touring the blogosphere during the month of July on her virtual Book Tour with Pump Up Your Book Promotion. You can visit Claire's other blog stops and find out more information about this delightful and fun book and talented author, here.

Disclosure: A copy of this book was sent by the publisher as part of a Pump Up Your Book Promotion Tour. I am an Amazon and Indiebound associate.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Book Review: Beachcombers by Nancy Thayer

About Beachcombers:

Abbie Fox hasn’t seen her father or two younger sisters in almost two years, during which she’s jetted around the world and experienced life, if not love. But now Lily, the baby of the family, is sending Abbie urgent emails begging her to return home to Nantucket. Their middle sister, Emma, has taken to her bed, emotionally devastated after the loss of her high-powered stockbroker’s job and a shockingly unexpected break-up with her fiancĂ©. Also, Lily is deeply worried that Marina, the beautiful, enigmatic woman renting their guesthouse, has set her sights on the sisters’ widowed father, Jim. The Fox girls closed ranks years ago after the haunting, untimely death of their mother, but seeing their dad move on with his life forces each of them to take stock.

Over the course of the summer, the sisters’ lives grow as turbulent as the unpredictable currents encircling Nantucket. When Abbie encounters an incredibly appealing married man, she breaks her own rules in the name of love, fearing all the while that she’ll regret it. Meanwhile, type-A Emma learns a new definition of success, and strong-minded Lily must reconcile her dreams with reality. Even Marina, who has come to Nantucket to forget heartbreak and betrayal, faces an astonishing turn of events that will find her torn between fate and freedom. At summer’s end, these unforgettable women will face profound choices—and undergo personal transformations that will surprise even themselves.

My Thoughts:

Beachcombers is a wonderful story of a family in transition and it is set over one summer on the beautiful island of Nantucket. Nancy Thayer tells the story through the voices of four women,  which changes with each chapter. The story is told seamlessly as the women face challenges and changes in their own lives and learn how to live and let go of the past and face the future.  I loved how Ms. Thayer makes the island of Nantucket a beautiful part of this story. I could easily imagine the beaches, the sand between my toes and the sights and sounds of the ocean waves crashing. This is a perfect summer read with the perfect setting and I found myself engrossed in the story through to the end.  Reading   made me wish that I was at the beach this summer, especially on the beaches of Nantucket.  I've been to Martha's Vineyard so I personally know the beauty of the New England area and that island. I haven't been to Nantucket but can tell through reading Beachcombers it has a beauty and charm that can touch your life. There is a certain magic to the ocean and the beach and Thayer brings that to life in the lives of the four women through their story told in Beachcombers.

Check out this wonderful video of Nancy Thayer on Surfside beach which is featured in the novel and as she reads from Beachcombers:

Nancy Thayer is the New York Times bestselling author of Summer House, Moon Shell Beach, The Hot Flash Club, The Hot Flash Club Strikes Again, Hot Flash Holidays, The Hot Flash Club Chills Out, and Between Husbands and Friends. She lives on Nantucket.

Check out Nancy Thayer's Website, HERE.

You can read an excerpt from Beachcombers, HERE.

Nancy Thayer is virtually touring the blogosphere during the month of July on her virtual Book Tour with Pump Up Your Book Promotion. You can visit Nancy's other blog stops and find out more information about this wonderful book and talented author, HERE.

Disclosure: A galley copy of this book was sent by the publisher, Ballantine Books as part of a Pump Your Book Promotion Tour. I am an Amazon and Indiebound associate.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Mailbox Monday ~ July 19

Mailbox Monday is a fun meme hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page. We share books that came into our house by mail. In My Mailbox is another fun meme hosted by The Story Siren that explores the weekly contents of our mailboxes &  books bought and sometimes other fun goodies.  Here's what arrived in my mailbox this week:

One Day (Vintage Contemporaries Original)

One Day by David Nicholls from Random House

The Accidental Bestseller

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Book Review: Sea Escape by Lynne Griffin & Giveaway

Summary:   Laura Martinez is wedged in the middle place, grappling with her busy life as a nurse, wife, and devoted mom to Henry and Claire, when her estranged mother, Helen, suffers a devastating stroke. In a desperate attempt to lure her mother into choosing life, Laura goes to Sea Escape, the pristine beach home that Helen took refuge in when her carefully crafted life unraveled years ago, after the death of her beloved husband, Joseph. There, Laura hunts for legendary love letters her father wrote to her mother when he served as a reporter for the Associated Press during wartime Vietnam. Believing the beauty and sway of her father’s words have the power to heal, Laura reads the letters bedside to her mother–a woman who once spoke the language of fabric; of Peony Sky in Jade and Paradise Garden Sage–but who can’t or won’t speak to her now. As Laura delves deeper into her tangled family history, each letter revealing patchwork details of her parents’ marriage, she finds a common thread. A secret, mother and daughter unknowingly share.

My Thoughts:

Set in New England, on the coast of Massachusetts, Sea Escape shares the story of a mother and daughter and the challenges that they face. Laura, is in her mid-forties and is happily married with a loving husband and two young children and a career as a nurse working with newborn babies. She still yearns for the approval and closeness of her distant mother Helen. Laura feels that she "lost" her mother when her father died when she was a young girl. Helen then seemed to slip into a world focused on the past and reading love letters from her deceased husband.

When Helen has a stroke, Laura does all that she can to help her and in the process takes a peek into her mother's past to help understand her distant mother. She so desperately wants to connect to her mother and Laura decides to read some of the love letters her father wrote to her mother during their courtship and marriage. These letters prove to be insightful although they also provide a painful look into the past. Laura uncovers secrets that her mother has hidden and the pieces of the past start falling into place.

The story is revealed as it goes back and forth between the present with Laura's point of view and the past from Helen's perspective. I loved how the use of the love letters between Helen and her husband were used to share the past through Helen's point of view. I found this very effective, but I am also a fan of letters in novels as for me, it gives a personal richness to a story. I also enjoyed the parts where Helen shares her life as a young girl and as she grows into a woman during the 1950's through the 1970's and highlights of the time during the Vietnam War.

Sea Escape beautifully unravels the struggles between mother-daughter relationships as well as the bonds that run so deeply. It's a novel that I could connect to as I enjoy reading about mother-daughter relationships and their complexities. Ms. Griffin has created a richly layered story filled with strong characters and the beauty of the New England area.  Sea Escape is the perfect summertime read for those who enjoy reading about mother-daughter relationships and women's fiction with the beautiful backdrop of New England.

I found it very interesting that Ms. Griffin found inspiration for this novel through her own mother's illness and letters her own father wrote to her mother.

SEA ESCAPE is an Indie Next List Notable and Entertainment Weekly Top Ten Book of Summer.  For more information, c
heck out Lynne Griffin's website, here.

You can follow Lynne Griffin on:
Twitter @Lynne_Griffin 
and on Facebook Lynne Griffin

I read Sea Escape by Lynne Griffin as part of her book tour with TLC Book Tours. You can check out other tour stops and reviews, here.

Disclosure: Thanks to TLC Book Tours and the publiser Simon & Schuster for sending me a review copy of this book. I am an Amazon and Indiebond associate.


Sea Escape: A NovelLife Without Summer: A Novel

I have a terrific giveaway, the publisher, Simon & Schuster has generously allowed tour hosts to give away One Copy of Sea Escape by Lynne Griffin AND  One copy of Lynne Griffin's first novel Life Without Summer to one lucky winner!

All you have to do is leave a comment, make sure to include your email address so that I can contact you if you are a winner. Otherwise, I won't be able to include your name in the drawing. Open to US & Canada only. Books will ship directly to the winners from the publisher. Enter by July 30, 2010.

Monday, July 12, 2010

In My Mailbox/Mailbox Monday ~ July 12th

Mailbox Monday is a fun meme hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page. We share books that came into our house by mail. In My Mailbox is another fun meme hosted by The Story Siren that explores the weekly contents of our mailboxes & books bought and sometimes other fun goodies.

I received a surprise package from Random House Reader's Circle which included an official Rizzoli & Isles Armchair Detective Kit. Rizzoli & Isles is a new series based on the bestselling novels by Tess Gerritsen premiering on TNT tonight, July 12th at 10/9C. I've not read Tess Gerritsen's novels but I will definitely check out this new series. For information on the new series, Rizzoli & Isles, go here. You can check out all the items in the kit in the picture above, it included:

  • Official Rizzoli & Isles T-Shirt
  • Rizzoli & Isles Tea Cup with Black Tea Bag
  • 200 Piece Rizzoli & Isles Puzzle
  • Killer Team Bookmarks
  • The Apprentice paperback by Tess Gerritsen
  • Rizzoli & Isles sneak peak DVD

The I Hate to Cook Book: 50th Anniversary Edition
from Hachette

Sprinkle with Murder (Cupcake Bakery Mystery)

Sprinkle With Murder (Cupcake Bakery Mystery) by Jenn McKinlay

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Giveaway: 2 Copies of Guest House by Barbara K. Richardson

I'm thrilled to host this giveaway for 2 copies of Guest House by Barbara K. Richardson! Thanks to Anne at Book Report Network for allowing me to share this wonderful book with you. Please check out my review of Guest House, here.

Giveaway Details:

All you have to do is leave a comment, make sure to include your email address so that I can contact you if you are a winner. Otherwise, I won't be able to include your name in the drawing. Open to US & Canada only. Books will ship directly to the winners from the publisher. Enter by July 23, 2010.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Review: Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Description from Harper Collins:

An ambitious and startling debut novel that follows the lives of four women at a resort popular among slaveholders who bring their enslaved mistresses

wench \'wench\ n. from Middle English "wenchel," 1 a: a girl, maid, young woman; a female child.

Tawawa House in many respects is like any other American resort before the Civil War. Situated in Ohio, this idyllic retreat is particularly nice in the summer when the Southern humidity is too much to bear. The main building, with its luxurious finishes, is loftier than the white cottages that flank it, but then again, the smaller structures are better positioned to catch any breeze that may come off the pond. And they provide more privacy, which best suits the needs of the Southern white men who vacation there every summer with their black, enslaved mistresses. It's their open secret.

My Thoughts:
Wench tells the story of four black, enslaved women during 1852-1854 in the years before the Civil War. Lizzie, Reenie, Sweet and Mawu all visit Tawawa House a summer retreat in Xenia, Ohio with their slave owners. The southern white men vacation there every summer with their black slave mistresses openly. The novel is narrated mainly through the eyes of Lizzie who is a slave mistress to Master Drayle from Tennessee. The ladies have become accustomed to this summer excursion and develop a friendship with each other as they return each year. Mawu is the newer addition to the group and the most unhappy with her situation. Most of the women have come to a sort of acceptance of their life situations and know the ramifications of what could happen if they disobey their owners. Things change when Mawu talks about running away and becoming a "free" slave after they learn that Ohio allows slaves to be free and is a "free territory".

Each women learns to examine what it would mean for them to escape and leave behind everything they value most especially children, family and friends. They also must confront the reality that escaping would also free them from the emotional and physical abuses they suffer at the hands of their masters. Although, some felt emotional connections to their masters.

This was a hard book to read as many situations are so degrading and quite brutal for these female and male slaves. I have read several fictional books related to slavery and each shares a different perspective. I know that slavery itself was brutal, it is reality and it is a part of history that should not be forgotten.  Wench sheds a fictional light on the historical truth of a resort in Xenia Ohio where southern slaveholders brought their enslaved mistresses. It made me wonder if some of the slaveholders actually loved their mistresses as they treated them in some ways as their wives but still as property. Wench showed the beauty of the friendships between the slaves, both men and women and how they would sacrifice for each other and learn tragically the importance of their own humanity.

Wench is a book that will engage you and touch your soul. You will find yourself turning the pages quickly to find out what happens next. It is a novel that will stay with you and force you to ponder the moral complexities of life, of slavery and humanity.

Check out the authors website for more information about Wench, here.

For Book Clubs, a Reading Group Guide with discussion questions for Wench is here.

Listen to an interview with the author on NPR, here.

Disclosure: Thanks to Harper Collins for providing a copy of this book for review. I am an Amazon and Indiebound associate.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Review: Guest House by Barbara K. Richardson

Driving home from work on a summer afternoon, Melba Burns witnesses a nightmare collision. The wreck ends her pursuit of success at any cost—Melba parks her car, quits her job and stops driving. She retreats into her beloved old farmhouse, yearning for a simpler peace.
But peace and Melba’s new roommate, JoLee Garry, have never met. A shallow, self-absorbed stunner, JoLee magnetizes messes and trouble. She brings boyfriends, booze and a tag-along son with her—a series of unexpected guests who transform Melba’s solo life into something different, daring and richer.

My Thoughts:

"This being human is a guest house, every morning a new arrival..." —Rumi

This quote is the meaning behind the title of  Guest House  which resonates so clearly with the story that is told in this wonderful debut novel by Barbara K. Richardson.  The book opens with Melba Burns, a 53 year old realtor in Portland Oregon who has much to be grateful for in her life. She is successful in her career and financially secure but yet emotionally she is dealing with regrets from her past and few deep connections to others. After witnessing a horrible accident, she reevaluates her life and makes drastic changes. She buys an old farmhouse and starts a new life of sorts. She is always one that tends to save people and give them the benefit of the doubt. She takes in a boarder, JoLee Garry who has a troubled past. She is estranged from her husband Gene who has taken her son off to live a life in a small town in Idaho in hopes of convincing her to take him back. Sadly, both JoLee and Gene are not the best parents and are neglectful and downright selfish. Their son Matt, who is 10 learns quickly how to fend for himself in a world of imagination and self preservation.

Fortunately, Matt settles in the farmhouse with his mother and Melba who turns out to be the one that is like a guardian angel of sorts for Matt. She stands up for him and guides him in quiet ways so as not to take away the authority of his parents. Parents who are too focused on themselves to realize what they need to do to help raise their son. Melba realizes that she has to challenge her own fears and struggles to help herself and Matt.

There are many Melba's in the world that end up caring for children who are neglected by their parents. In this novel, I found that Ms. Richardson did a beautiful job giving attention to this issue and for me, pointing out that a child can still find a way to survive and others can show up in their life to help guide them. Also, that as an adult you can make a difference in a child's life even when parents don't step up to the plate to do their job. It's sad but realistic that not all parents can handle parenthood, it's not an easy job and when you add immaturity, alcoholism, drugs, selfishness and more to the mix it makes it so much harder on children. For me, this was not a depressing novel but a realistic one that shares love and hope amidst tragic circumstances. Melba is the kind of woman that I would want as a friend and neighbor as she is authentic, kind, giving and honest. Matt learns self acceptance the hard way although I found some circumstances may have lent themselves more towards an older child's experiences.

I highly recommend this novel. The writing flows beautifully, the characters are well developed and this book will challenge you to think about family, life, love, childhood and more.

You can read an excerpt of the first chapter of Guest House, here.

You can read more about Guest House at Barbara K. Richardson's website, here.

Here is a wonderful video about the inspiration for Guest House:

Disclosure: Thanks to Anne from Book Report Network for sending me a review copy. I am an Amazon and Indiebound associate.

Monday, July 5, 2010

In My Mailbox/Mailbox Monday ~ July 5, 2010

Mailbox Monday is a fun meme hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page. We share books that came into our house by mail. In My Mailbox is another fun meme hosted by The Story Siren that explores the weekly contents of our mailboxes & books bought and sometimes other fun goodies.

The Outer Banks House: A Novel

The Outer Banks House by Diann Ducharme from Crown Publishing

Anthropology of an American Girl: A Novel

Anthropology of an American Girl by Hilary Thayer Hamann
(Advanced Reader copy from Appletree Books, see my post, here)