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Monday, August 31, 2015

A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan

Title:  A Window Opens

Author: Elisabeth Egan
Publisher: 25 August 2015 by Simon and Schuster
Pages: 350 pages
How I Read It: ARC ebook
Genre: women's fiction, chick lit, contemporary
My Rating: 2.5 crowns
From the beloved books editor at Glamour magazine comes a heartfelt and painfully funny debut about what happens when a wife and mother of three leaps at the chance to fulfill her professional destiny only to learn every opportunity comes at a price.

In A Window Opens, Elisabeth Egan brings us Alice Pearse, a compulsively honest, longing-to-have-it-all, sandwich generation heroine for our social-media-obsessed, lean in (or opt out) age. Like her fictional forebears Kate Reddy and Bridget Jones, Alice plays many roles (which she never refers to as wearing many hats and wishes you wouldn't either). She is a mostly-happily married mother of three, an attentive daughter, an ambivalent dog-owner, a part-time editor, a loyal neighbor, and a Zen commuter. She is not: a cook, a craftswoman, a decorator, an active PTA member, a natural caretaker, or the breadwinner. But when her husband makes a radical career change, Alice is ready to lean and she knows exactly how lucky she is to land a job at Scroll, a hip young start-up which promises to be the future of reading, with its chain of chic literary lounges and dedication to beloved classics. The Holy Grail of working mothers an intellectually satisfying job and a happy personal life seems suddenly within reach.

Despite the disapproval of her best friend, who owns the local bookstore, Alice is proud of her new balancing act (which is more like a three-ring circus) until her dad gets sick, her marriage flounders, her babysitter gets fed up, her kids start to grow up, and her work takes an unexpected turn. Fans of I Don't Know How She Does It,Where'd You Go Bernadette, and The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry will cheer as Alice realizes the question is not whether its possible to have it all, but what does she Alice Pearce really want?
My Thoughts
When I read the blurb  for this book, I thought I would both enjoy and relate to it. I like realistic contemporary tales about working women/mothers. However, I have very mixed feelings about this novel. The writing was fine but there was little story, no real plot, even though you quickly got caught up in the frantic pace of life for Alice. She is so busy with kids, parents, job, commute, husband that it's all a bit of a sad whirlwind actually. 
Attempts at what I would call 'Mummy' humour - 
"Margot's tried-on-and-discarded outfits directly into her hamper even though I knew they were clean."
"All those microscopic Polly Pocket shoes I felt guilty throwing out."
- fell rather flat when put up against the two major issues concerning her family and the ethical issues and stress she faced in her new job. When authors try and cover too much they often fail in some ways. What struck a cord with me most was the heartbreaking journey of her father's health. That Egan wrote really well about. However for the most part, it is easy to see where this story will go, all too conveniently at times - stressed-out working mum gets too involved in new job at the expense of her family life. Alice is rather frustrating at times and I struggled with what I would consider inconsistencies of the book as Egan swings between humour and the serious family issues faced. I definitely liked the more serious parts of the book better than the lighter ones. 
I also found the inconsequential stories sprinkled throughout often made little to no sense and rather annoying in there irrelevance.  For example the story of the brownie and the toilet - what was that about? And there were too many unknown specific NY destinations that meant nothing to me as they were not elaborated upon. I remained clueless:
"...the Cloisters, the Intrepid, the quiet garden behind the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine."
So in many ways it felt like reading a journal of the everyday occurrences with little to no reflection or depth.  Most working Mums can relate to the daily chaos but it just felt flat and rather dry.  At times I got bored and struggled to get through some sections. Too much focus on the craziness at the expense of character development and connectedness, especially with the issues between Alice and her husband. Here was another topical issue that could have been really addressed but in the end, conveniently resolved. 
Don't get me wrong, this book was fine but could have been better. Less of the day-to-day logistics and more of the evolving and developing relationships between all the characters would have made for a much richer story. 
"(time) you can't create more of it. You can sleep less, plan more ... set the alarm for a 5:30am spin class...check work email while your family is eating breakfast - but ultimately there are only so many hours in one day, and you have to spend some of them in bed."

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Title:  Maybe in Another Life

Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Publisher: 7 July 2015 by Atria Books - Washington Square Press
Pages: 352 pages
How I Read It: ARC ebook
Genre: women's fiction, chick lit, contemporary, romance
My Rating: 3 crowns

From the acclaimed author of Forever, Interrupted and After I Do comes a breathtaking new novel about a young woman whose fate hinges on the choice she makes after bumping into an old flame; in alternating chapters, we see two possible scenarios unfold—with stunningly different results.

At the age of twenty-nine, Hannah Martin still has no idea what she wants to do with her life. She has lived in six different cities and held countless meaningless jobs since graduating college. On the heels of leaving yet another city, Hannah moves back to her hometown of Los Angeles and takes up residence in her best friend Gabby’s guestroom. Shortly after getting back to town, Hannah goes out to a bar one night with Gabby and meets up with her high school boyfriend, Ethan.

Just after midnight, Gabby asks Hannah if she’s ready to go. A moment later, Ethan offers to give her a ride later if she wants to stay. Hannah hesitates. What happens if she leaves with Gabby? What happens if she leaves with Ethan?

In concurrent storylines, Hannah lives out the effects of each decision. Quickly, these parallel universes develop into radically different stories with large-scale consequences for Hannah, as well as the people around her. As the two alternate realities run their course, Maybe in Another Liferaises questions about fate and true love: Is anything meant to be? How much in our life is determined by chance? And perhaps, most compellingly: Is there such a thing as a soul mate?

Hannah believes there is. And, in both worlds, she believes she’s found him.
My Thoughts
"I'm just going to do my best and live under the assumption that if there are things in this life that we are supposed to do, if there are people in this world we are supposed to love, we'll find them. In time".
Can a decision change your life? Fascinating concept to consider, how even the smallest decision could have an impact on the way a life unfolds.  This story does just that - it details the ramifications of one small decision and shows what would have happened in a dual time scenario, the events that unfold from that initial selection. 
I love the idea that 'out there' may be numerous universes with another 'me', living out an alternate reality based upon decisions made differently. I have to admit to being partial to the concept that things have a funny way of working out, even if you are perplexed by them at the time. As the author states herself, she wished to raise questions like, "is anything meant to be? How much in our life is predetermined by chance? And perhaps, most compellingly: "Is there such a thing as a soul mate?"
"Life is long and full of an infinite number of decisions. I have to think that the small ones don't matter, that I'll end up where I need to end up no matter what I do. My fate will find me."
Now don't run away frightened, this is not a deep philosophical book. It does, however, present to the reader an interesting take on how a seemingly inconsequential decision could ultimately effect your long term situation. 
"Nine billion choices I've made over the course of my life could have changed where I am right now and where I'm headed. There's no sense focusing on just one. Unless you want to punish yourself."
The book is written in alternating chapters with each chapter telling one version of the story from the initial decision. So basically it's almost like two books in one. I liked that there were similar things that happened in each universe, regardless.  I found that to be rather clever writing. I also really liked the strong friendship between Hannah and Gabby in both timelines. The strong thread to hold it all together no matter what the situation. I like that this isn't your typical romance novel for obvious reasons - there are two male leads. So it begs the question, what would have been the 'right' decision? Hard to know. Finally, I like that the author makes the characters quite relatable with traits that one can identify with. In many ways they appear just your everyday person: living, making decisions (both good and bad) and where life is never simple. 
"I have to think that there is a method to all of this madness ..... that there is a larger plan out there. Everything happens for a reason."
So all up this is a well-written, thought-provoking tale about the consequences of our actions, fate and destiny.
"Well, I'm sure I'll be seeing you ..... some way or another". "Yeah," he says, "Or maybe in another life."

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.