Emily Giffin’s Something Blue

In honor of the recent release of Emily Giffin’s seventh novel, The One & Only, of which I am eager to delve into, I took a step back to the beginning of her writing career and reread her second novel, Something Blue, the sequel to Something Borrowed (will she ever bring back those characters again?), which brings back the beautiful, but self-centered Darcy as she travels to London to seek the comfort of her friend Ethan and start a new life away from New York, away from her ex-fiancé, away from her former best friend, and really, away from everyone who didn’t agree with the way she was choosing to live her life. With her impending motherhood, will Darcy be able to change her life for the better, or will she stay stuck in her ways?

What I love about Giffin is that not only is she great at getting the chick-lit story right, but she’s also a good writer which you don’t see a lot in that genre. Even though her stories have a light air to them, they also possess great strength and always make me take a step back and examine certain things about myself, decisions that I’ve made or haven’t made. All of her characters grow in one way or another. Take Darcy for instance. In the first novel we see her in she is extremely self-centered. She’s that way too in the beginning of Something Blue, but eventually learns that life can’t always be that way, and that if she were to stay on the path that she was going, she would never actually be happy. It’s a hard lesson for anyone to learn, but a valuable one. I leave you with a quote from the novel.

“Love and friendship. They are what make us who we are, and what can change us, if we let them.”

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Amy Hatvany’s Safe With Me

In Amy Hatvany’s new novel, Safe With Me, published in March by Washington Square Press, she weaves a tale of abuse, loss and unconditional love through three distinct alternating narrations of two women and one teenager, who are connected long before they meet.

It had been nearly a year since Hannah Scott lost her daughter as she was biking out of their driveway and hit by a car. Since then, she threw herself into her work, opening up a second hair salon and moving into an apartment above it, trying to pick up the pieces when all the while she’s still devastated by it. It’s not until a new friend walks into her life (and her salon) with a connection to her daughter that she is finally able to face the situation and start healing.

Olivia Bell has lived her life in fear for a long time, fearful of her husband’s sometimes abusive tendencies, and fearful of her daughter Maddie’s struggling health, which, after an organ transplant a year earlier is finally improving enough that she can return to school. It is when Olivia picks Maddie up on her first day back in tears that she decides to make her daughter feel better…by taking her to the grand opening of a new hair salon in town. Little do they know that their trip to Hannah’s salon will change their lives forever.

At the heart of this novel lies the concept of the power of emotions and how strongly they can affect us, sometimes without us even knowing it. Hatvany makes us take a look at our own lives and relationships, past the ideals, past the rose-colored glasses, and allows us to see them for what they really are (were).

“We try on personalities like second skins, learning to present only the best versions of ourselves to the world, fearful of what might happen if we reveal just how imperfect and vulnerable we really are. But it’s these imperfections…these struggles, that truly connect us.”

Lauren Weisberger’s Chasing Harry Winston

Although not a favorite among critics, I found Lauren Weisberger’s Chasing Harry Winston to be highly entertaining and fun.  It tells the story of three best friends, Emmy, Adriana and Leigh, who, on the verge of turning thirty create a pact (bet?) to drastically change their lives.  Emmy vows to do away with serial monogamy and play the field a bit.  Adriana decides to mend her boy-hopping ways and settle into a full-fledged relationship.  Leigh chooses not to do anything at first because her life seems perfect, but as the story progresses we see that that may not be the case after all.

The story unfolds as Emmy, who thinks that her longtime boyfriend is about to propose to her, gets dumped, while Leigh’s boyfriend, Russell, proposes unexpectedly.  Emmy is heartbroken because, despite her ex’s cheating ways – something that she overlooked – she was optimistic that they were going to last.  She tries to be happy for Leigh, but she can’t help but feel sad.  Emmy end up taking a job that requires her to do quite a bit of globe-trotting, as a means to get away and stay busy.  I think that her decision to play the field stems from a few things (heartbreak, Leigh’s engagement, etc), but it ultimately turns out to be the best thing she ever does, because it allows her to gain control over her life and date/define relationships on her terms instead of just going along with whatever the guy thinks.  In the end it pays off by giving her the confidence that she had been lacking; the one thing that will get her exactly what she wants.

Confidence is not something that Adriana is in need of; in fact, at times one could say that she may have too much confidence, if there is such a thing.  She lives a carefree, pampered life due to the fact that her parents have a ton of money.  Her decision to settle down – or at least attempt to – partially stems from Emmy’s situation (what better way to encourage your friend to change her lifestyle than by changing your own as well?) and partially because, although she does love her life, I think that she was a bit bored with all of it.  She needed to add a bit of depth.  For her, monogamy was a challenge.  She had no problem getting a guy, the question is, would she keep him?

And then there’s Leigh.  Throughout the novel, Leigh experiences a bit of emotional turmoil.  On paper, her life is perfect.  She’s an editor at a major trade publishing house, and she is engaged to one of the city’s most eligible bachelors, but something is off.  She doesn’t feel the spark that you’re supposed to feel when you’re in love, but Russell is perfect on paper (and to everybody in her life), so she stays with him.  It’s not until Leigh is introduced to Jessie, her new client, and starts traveling to his Hamptons’ home on the weekends to edit his new novel, that she lets these feelings of uncertainty with Russell come to the surface, and starts to explore the idea of not being with him.

Chasing Harry Winston is good for anyone who is in the mood for a really fun, girly read.  I think the parts about Emmy are particularly entertaining, as she is the only character who puts a name on her year of boy-hopping, appropriately called “Tour de Whore” (how awesome is that?!).  The characters of Adriana and Leigh are great too.  All in all, this is a great book that I did not want to put down.  I was able to read it in less than a week.

Emily Giffin’s Love the One You’re With

In Emily Giffin’s Love the One You’re With, she explores the idea about what could happen if the one who got away resurfaced.  How would you react to the situation?  Would you let that person back into your life, or would you close yourself off and run in the other direction?  The answer seems like it should be black and white, especially if you’re in a place in your life where you are happy, but for Ellen, it is the hardest decision that she has ever had to make.  It had been almost ten years since she had laid eyes on him, but one fateful night, on a rainy NYC street corner, she runs into Leo and her life as she knows it may never be the same.

Ellen is a freelance photographer, something that she loves, and her husband, Andy, is a lawyer, working for a large firm and hating every minute of it.  Andy’s sister Margot is Ellen’s best friend, and the reason why she and Andy got together in the first place.  Ellen and Margot met when they were freshman in college and, as luck would have it, roommates.  They would go on to room together throughout their college careers, and then again when Margot decided to move to NY and take Ellen with her.  Naturally, when Ellen and Andy began dating, Margot was thrilled, especially when comparing Andy to Ellen’s last love, Leo.  Andy was everything that Leo wasn’t.  He was sweet and courteous, he didn’t think that the world revolved around him, and he was interested in what Ellen was doing and what she had to say.  All in all, they were a perfect fit, creating a good life with each other…until Leo came back into the picture.

When Ellen runs into Leo on the street corner, her first instinct is to run away, but she finds that she cannot contain her curiosity as to what he has been up to and if he’s still the same person that she once knew.  Leo offers her the job of a lifetime, which Ellen turns down, only to be offered the same job through her agent not soon after.  Ellen travels to LA with her sister Suzanne – the only person that she has told about Leo – for her photo shoot, and is surprised when none other than Leo is there.  This sets off a chain of events – one of which being that she and Andy move to Atlanta to be closer to his family and so he can work with his father in the family business – that leads Ellen to make the decision of her life.  Will she stay with her husband despite the not-so-idyllic new city they live in, or will she go back to the one who broke her heart?

Love the One You’re With is a tale about a woman in a crossroads of her life, and the way that she goes about dealing with the situation.  One may not agree with how she handles things, but, if you were put into a similar situation, would you not at least contemplate doing the same?  I love this story because it shows that we’re all just human, we all have faults and weaknesses, some of which – in Ellen’s case – may be stronger than others, but at the end of the day, we make the right choices (one would hope) for our lives, as Ellen does with hers.  I leave you with a quote!
 

“Sometimes there are no happy endings.  No matter what, I’ll be losing something, someone….But maybe that’s what it all comes down to.  Love, not as a surge of passion, but as a choice to commit to something, someone, no matter what obstacles or temptations stand in the way.  And maybe making that choice, again and again, day in and day out, year after year, says more about love than never having a choice to make at all.”

Amy Hatvany’s Heart Like Mine

Have you ever stumbled onto a situation that wasn’t part of your plan, and had to make the choice of whether to venture off course risking everything, or stick with your original path and always wonder what could have been?  This is the case in Amy Hatvany’s Heart Like Mine, where the reader is introduced to Grace, Ava and Kelli in a trio of alternating narrations, and taken on a journey which will forever change all of their lives.  At times, heartbreaking, Heart Like Mine is the kind of book that touches your heart in ways that you wouldn’t think possible.  It makes you think about your own choices in life and whether they were the right ones for you.

Grace is a woman who works with a foundation that helps battered women make new lives for themselves; it was a career that she stumbled upon while doing volunteer work and she loves it.  But like many of us, Grace had a plan for her life, which didn’t include kids, which is why when she began dating Victor – a divorcé with two kids – she hesitated, but not for long.  For the most part, Victor’s kids lived with their mother, Kelli, spending every other weekend with him, something that Grace felt that she could deal with.  She and Victor move in together, get engaged, and for a brief moment everything is perfect.  Less than a week after their engagement, the unthinkable happens: Kelli dies.  Her death leaves Victor and the kids distraught as they try to cope with what happened, and Grace ultimately needs to choose.  Does she love Victor enough to stay with him and his kids and be able to help them in their time of need, or does she need to let go?

Ava is Victor and Kelli’s thirteen year old daughter who, ever since her dad had left a few years back, has been taking care of her unstable mom and helping with household chores that a girl of her age shouldn’t have to do.  She tolerates Grace, but at the same time wishes that her parents would get back together.  When she finds out that Kelli is dead, Ava’s world is crushed.  She has to permanently move out of the only home she’s ever known, and she resents Grace because she is alive whereas her mother is not.  But, the hardest thing of all is that everything that Kelli had told Ava about her past starts unraveling, and slowly Ava learns the truth: Kelli was not who she thought she was.  Ultimately, Ava needs to decide if she can let go of the mom she thought she had and accept Kelli for who she actually was.  She also needs to figure out if she can let go enough of Kelli to let Grace in, or be the catalyst to drive her away.

Kelli, is the mother to Ava and Max, and ex-wife to Victor.  Despite problems that she and Victor had, and despite the fact that they haven’t been together for the past few years, she still held onto hope that he would come back to her…until Victor told her of his engagement to Grace.  Kelli was devastated by the news, yes, but was it enough to put her over the edge?  Since Kelli dies not to long after, most of her character is narrated from her adolescence up until the time of her death.  As we travel with Kelli along her short journey, things from her past emerge and shed light on her as an adult and why she behaved the way that she did – the most shocking of which Kelli didn’t even see coming.  She always knew that she had been abandoned by the people who were supposed to love her the most, but she finds out that there is a possibility that they may have betrayed her as well.

If you were put into a similar situation, how would you react?  Would you try to do the right thing even if it was not in your plan?  Take Grace, she had just started getting used to the idea that she was going to be a part-time step mom, only to be thrown completely into parenting…and not only that, parenting kids – Ava specifically – who made it especially difficult for her to do so.  Ava is horrible to Grace, stealing from her, screaming at her, lying to Victor, and at least once or twice telling Grace that she hated her.  It’s not that Grace was replacing Kelli, because that is not what Grace wanted at all, but at the same time you can kind of understand where Ava is coming from as well.  Her plan was not to tragically lose her mom and be raised by someone else, and because she is only thirteen her behavior is partially excused.  Although she does not come across as the most sympathetic character at times, losing a parent isn’t easy, and that in turn makes you feel for her.  All Kelli ever wanted out of life was to be loved by someone.  She was estranged from her parents, divorced from her husband, and only had one real friend – and the one thing that she loved the most, the thing that she didn’t know existed although always longed for, could have kept her from going over the edge of despair and possibly have been her hold in the realm of happiness.

Heart Like Mine shows the different types of love that we can experience in our lives, the ones that have always been with us, the ones that we’ve always wanted, and the ones that we didn’t know existed but that ultimately were found to be essential us.  It shows us that life is more precious than we realize, and at any second someone that we deeply care about can be taken away from us, but it also hopefully helps people who find themselves in similar situations (Grace) know that they are not alone, and that things will get better over time.  You can feel the loss of someone deeply, but in order for anyone to keep on living, you have to move on to a point.  Perhaps if Kelli had been able to do that she would have lived a longer and happier life.  This was my first time reading Hatvany’s writing.  I think that she did a wonderful job and I would not hesitate to pick up another one.

Sarah Pekkanen’s The Opposite of Me

When I first picked up The Opposite of Me, I thought that the title was pretty straight forward.  After all, it’s about two twin sisters who are complete opposites.  Alex is thin, has red hair and turquoise eyes, and works as a model.  She is the epitome of beautiful.  She is engaged to an incredibly handsome and charming rich man who adores her.  And there’s Lindsey.  She has brown hair and brown eyes, and is about to be made VP at the advertising firm that she works at in New York, the smart sister…until everything blows up in her face and she finds herself jobless and moving back home to her parents’ house in Maryland.  Only, no one knows the real reason of why she is there.  Lindsey is embarrassed about the turn of events and also wants to remain “the smart sister” in her parents’ eyes.  So she lies, biding her time until she can get back on her feet.

As Lindsey desperately tries to start her career over, she begins to learn more about herself and realizes that there is life outside of work, and (gasp) outside of advertising.  One evening, Lindsey bestows an act of kindness onto a stranger and ends up not only making a friend, but being pointed into a whole new direction, one that she never would have considered.  She begins to question everything about her life and her relationships, or lack thereof.  This gives way to a string of events that will change both Lindsey and Alex’s lives forever, but it also brings them closer together. They kind of trade places, but is that really what happens, or is it actually the real way they were supposed to be all along.  In a way, it’s exactly what they both needed.  They were so focused on what they felt they needed to do with their lives, and what was expected of them, that they didn’t take the time out to think about what they themselves really wanted. 

The Opposite of Me isn’t a tale about two twin sisters that are completely opposite, and it isn’t about making the best of what life throws at you either.  It’s about Lindsey and Alex as individuals who learn that there is another side to themselves, that they are not necessarily what they have molded themselves out to be.  It’s about two sisters who, despite their differences, are actually more similar than they could have imagined. 

Pekkanen makes you realize just how precious life really is, that what you do with it is as important as the relationships that you make along the way.  But she also makes you question yourself as well.  She makes you want to look in the mirror and really think about who you are as a person, and if you are where you want to be.  Do you recognize the person staring back, or is there someone else entirely that you could be?  We all have different facets of ourselves, and as we grow as individuals certain things get pushed aside in order for other things to flourish, but maybe it’s those things that we neglect that would make us the happiest.  The Opposite of Me shows us that sometimes, it’s okay to change your life’s plan if that change will allow you to start living again.

I leave you with a quote to entice you to read this book.

 

“If we don’t fight it too hard – if we don’t cling to the person we used to be and instead let go of the paralyzing fear and turn into who we’re meant to be next – it’s easier.”

-Sarah Pekkanen, The Opposite of Me

Karin Tanabe’s The List

In The List, Karin Tanabe tells the story of Adrienne Brown, a woman who leaves her life in New York behind for the chance of a lifetime, a job at the Capitalist.  In New York, Adrienne wrote for the magazine Town & Country, she was given free designer clothes and accessories, and encouraged to hae a life outside of work, but something always seemed to be missing.  Politics.  She loved politics, which is why, when Adrienne got the offer to work at the Capitalist, based in Washington, DC, she didn’t hesitate.  The only thing she hesitates about is calling her parents and asking if she can move back home

As it turns out, working at the Capitalist, or the List as everyone calls it, isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.  Adrienne is assigned to the Style section, which is about as low as you can get.  She gets zero respect from her coworkers.  They keep their heads down as they pass by and have private conversations in front of Adrienne and the other Style girls, as if they don’t exist.  Her job consists of chasing down celebrities at functions, trying to get quotes from them, or accidentally overhearing conversations and turning them into stories.  She has to get up at five in the morning, six days a week (her only day off is Saturday), and she’s expected to write at least ten stories a day.  If she takes even a second to breathe, her boss is down her throat about not being productive.  Where is the fun in that?

One restless night, Adrienne decides to take a drive and stumbles onto what could be the biggest story the Capitalist has ever had…involving one of their employees and a powerful person in office.  Adrienne becomes consumed with this, obsessive at times.  She even enlists the help of the one person in the world who you wouldn’t expect. 

The List, loosely based on Karin Tanabe’s experiences of working at Politico, is fast-paced and witty.  Author Sarah Pekkanen describes it as “The Devil Wears Prada meets Capitol Hill,” and I couldn’t agree more.  Adrienne thinks that working at the Capitalist is everything that she wanted, and in some ways it is.  She learns to write (and think) faster, but she never truly fits in.  She doesn’t dress the part of a reporter and she doesn’t completely think like one either.  She sits on the story for so long trying to put all of the pieces together to make it perfect, that she almost loses everything.  It is only after she is left in a motel room that Adrienne is able to gather all of her strength and finish the job.  But even then is a story ever truly finished?

Karin Tanabe has crafted a great story that will grip you until long after the novel ends.  A novel that is so gripping, that you can’t put it down, and one that you continue to think about weeks later, is the best that you can get.  It also makes you wonder to what extent the truth meets fiction.  It is, after all, based on the author’s own experiences.  How much of it is fact and how much of it is a figment of Tanabe’s own imagination?  The List is a must read for anyone who is looking to lose themselves in a story.  It only took my three days to read, which says a lot and I personally cannot wait for her next book.

Sarah Pekkanen’s The Best of Us

It had been a while since I had read and enjoyed a new (new to me) chick-lit author.  I had tried a few different ones, but none of them seemed to stack up.  Then, I was introduced to Sarah Pekkanen’s writing, and subsequently purchased all of her books.  One down, three more to read!  I’m excited!

In her fourth book, The Best of Us, Pekkanen explores the friendships of four college friends (three women and one man) who travel to Jamaica with their spouses on an all-expenses paid vacation to celebrate the birthday of one of their own. 

Tina is married and struggling a bit with the task of raising four young children.  Allie has just found out about a life-threatening illness that she may potentially end up with.  Savannah’s husband moved out, leaving her for a nurse who works in his hospital – information that she has not shared with anyone.  And then there’s Pauline, the wife of Dwight, who, in trying to make him happy, sets up the whole vacation for his birthday with his college friends.  Pauline is cold and uninviting, but as we get deeper into the story, we learn that there is much more depth to Pauline, and a secret that she has been hiding for all of her life with Dwight.

Among the reunion of old college friends, the hours spent both on the beach and in the villa, and the non-stop partying, there are darker forces working as well.  Secrets emerge (old and new) and each relationship (friendship and romantic) is tested.  There is jealousy, betrayal, love and everything in between that you could think of that would emerge when old friends get together.

I had previously read her e-short stories and was really looking forward to seeing how she handled the task of writing something bigger.  Given the number of main characters, I was a bit unsure if there would be enough depth to each of them to make them believable, but I was happy to find out that there was.  I really enjoyed this book.  It is a must read for anyone who likes chick lit, also for people who are fans of Emily Giffin, which I am as well (Pekkanen’s style has been compared to Giffin).  The Best of Us is a tale of old friends and what happens to those friendships when you grow up and live separate lives.