‘Suzanne Davis Gets a Life’ by Paula Marantz Cohen

sgal pmcSTORY: Suzanne Davis lounges around her tiny New York City apartment in her pajamas, writing press releases for the International Association of Air-Conditioning Engineers, listening to the ticking of her biological clock, and wondering where life is taking her. As her 35th birthday looms, Suzanne embarks on a wrong-headed, but very funny, quest—to find Mr. Right and start the family she hopes will give meaning to her life.

Her quest plunges us into the world of her Upper West Side apartment building, a world of overly invested mothers, fanatical dog-owners, curmudgeonly longtime residents, and young (and not so young) professionals. All are keenly observed by Suzanne, whose witty self-deprecation endears her to us even as it makes us want to shake some sense into her.

Light in its tone but incisive in its social satire, Suzanne Davis Gets a Life balances its wit with true concern for its protagonist. We can’t help but wish Suzanne success in “getting a life.” But can such a search possibly yield the meaning she craves? When her extremely annoying mother arrives on the scene, it appears that her plan has been hijacked. But serious illness opens her to new people and a new perspective. She ends by getting a life—even as she may lose one.

REVIEW: Suzanne is a 31…OK…34-year-old single woman living in a tiny apartment in New York City. Her job is as a technical writer for an air-conditioning company. With her biological clock ticking away, she has yet to find the perfect man. As she works mostly from home, her every day life is pretty predictable. However, she is determined to step up her search for a husband and decides to start by spending time on the apartment’s playground observing the mothers as they interact with their children on a daily basis. She slowly gets to know some of them which gets her introduced to several men and involved with a book group. A couple of the men she meets aren’t too bad but neither are they the greatest.

Suzanne has a mother who has driven her crazy all of her life resulting in her now amassing large fees from her shrink. Thank goodness her mother lives in Arizona.

The story takes us through some of the dates Suzanne has with men and the resulting sexual encounters. In addition, she introduces readers to the characters in her apartment building that will leave the reader laughing.

Life continues on this flat line way until Suzanne is diagnosed with breast cancer. What follows is an account of her reaction to her illness and her treatment.

The novel has a number of laugh out loud moments. The biggest thing that struck me was that I could just hear Woody Allen telling this story. It was perfectly written for him to narrate it.

While I enjoyed some of the humorous moments and goofy characters, I found that the book became a bit monotonous after awhile. However, I’m sure many readers will like the comedy.

Connie for b2b

‘Then Came You’ by Jennifer Weiner

tcy jwSTORY: The lives of four very different women intertwine in unexpected ways in this new novel by bestselling author Jennifer Weiner (In Her Shoes; Best Friends Forever).

Each woman has a problem: Princeton senior Jules Wildgren needs money to help her dad cure his addiction; Pennsylvania housewife Annie Barrow is gasping to stay financially afloat; India Bishop yearns to have a child, an urge that her stepdaughter Bettina can only regard with deeply skepticism until she finds herself in a most unexpected situation.

Interlocking dramas designed to ensnare; bound to be a bestseller.

REVIEW: Jennifer Weiner never fails to write a book that wraps you up and doesn’t let go. Our heroine is a money strapped college student when she decides to sell her eggs to help with her expenses. We then follow the way her donation is used and all of the people whose lives are affected.

The story goes from character to character each chapter which can be confusing unless the reader is totally engrossed in the novel. To pick it up and put it down often can add to that confusion. I would advise someone to dedicate themselves to reading it. In the end, we find that it truly does take a village to raise a child. I enjoyed reading this book very much.

Connie for b2b

‘Life Below Stairs: True Lives of Edwardian Servants’ by Alison Maloney

lbs amSTORY: Last year, the telly-watching public was gripped by Downton Abbey — the most successful British period drama in years and the number — one most-watched new drama programme of 2010. Captivated by the secrets, the scandal and the servant-master divide of an Edwardian household, viewers religiously watched in their millions.

In Life Below Stairs, bestselling author Alison Maloney responds to the public’s desire to know more, going behind the scenes to reveal a detailed picture of what really went on ‘downstairs’, describing the true-life trials and tribulations of the servants in a gripping non-fiction account.

Thoroughly researched and reliably informed, it also contains first-hand stories from the staff of the time. This charming and beautifully presented volume is a must-read for anyone interested in the lifestyle and conduct of a bygone era.

REVIEW: When Downton Abbey came on the scene, many readers started reading even more novels that take place in the Edwardian time period. I enjoy reading non-fiction about the different historical romance time periods and, thus, was drawn to this book.

The book discusses the different staff members and their hierarchy among the other servants. It details their dress, pay, rules, and job responsibilities. In addition, we learn about their living and working conditions and their constant work schedule throughout the day.

There is information about the price of food back then as compared to modern times and facts about various menus for every day and for special occasions. From the table settings, to intricate menus, to how food is served to guests is discussed in depth.

For those people who like Edwardian novels and have ever wondered why some things were done like they were, this is a very informative reference. I think after reading it, I shall have a better appreciation for the next book I read that takes place in this time period.

Connie for b2b

‘An Unsuitable Bride’ by Jane Feather

aub jfSTORY: The headstrong and beautiful Alexandra Douglas is summoned to London from the seminary for young ladies upon the death of her father, Sir Arthur Douglas. There, the family lawyer explains to her that she and her invalid sister, Sylvia, have been left penniless, disinherited, delegitimized. Her father had divorced her mother on the grounds of insanity, making the children of the marriage illegitimate, but still allowing him to remarry. On Sir Arthur’s death, his considerable wealth and estates passed to a distant relative, while his widowed second wife and stepson received handsome inheritances.

Alex is determined to get the inheritance that she and her sister are due.When she sees an advertisement for a librarian at her former family home, she applies in the guise of an impoverished middle-aged spinster with experience as a school librarian.But when The Honorable Peregrine Sullivan arrives for a weekend of hunting with Alex’s stepbrother and immediately notices that the librarian is not who she appears to be, she finds it impossible to keep her distance.

With her elaborate scheme unraveling and her future in jeopardy, Alex must rely on her wits—and her new love—to make sure justice is served.

REVIEW: Alexandra Douglas and her sister, Sylvia, who is an invalid have been left penniless after the death of their father. The home she has known and that should be rightly hers has been passed down to her greedy cousin. A very intelligent girl, Alexandra chooses to dress herself as an old lady and infiltrate her old home under the name of Alexandra Hathaway to work as a librarian cataloguing the very extensive family library.

In addition, she is advising her cousin (who does not recognize her) on how best to invest money in growing interests. Due to his ignorance of money, she is also skimming off profits for herself. Peregrine Sullivan visits the home and wonders who this frumpy, intelligent woman is. He decides to follow her when she makes a short visit to her sister.

When he discovers who she really is and the beautiful woman under the disguise, he works to win her heart. However, Alexandra is a stubborn and proud woman who would never agree to marry and be kept by a man who would also care for her sister. She has decided to continue her deception until she has made enough money to care for her sister’s life.

Will she continue to pull off this trick? Read this novel and you will find out what happens to her and if she and Peregrine are united in the end. There is a lot of nail biting but a good read!

Connie for b2b

‘Forbidden to Love the Duke’ by Jillian Hunter

ftlad jhSTORY: Lady Ivy Fenwick is desperate. Since her father’s fatal duel, she and her sisters have sold off every valuable possession to make ends meet. With the manor stripped bare, Ivy has one last resort: Apply as governess to the Duke of Ellsworth’s wards.

James should have known better than to hire the desirable lady who had fallen on hard times—and who tempts him at every turn. As her employer, he tries valiantly to remain noble and not let a kiss they shared as strangers years ago entice him. Yet the more he learns of Ivy’s secrets, the more he wants her. And when another suitor proves aggressive, James is confronted with a challenge: Surrender Ivy or fight for the woman he’s come to love against all odds, knowing that it takes a scoundrel to trump a scoundrel.

REVIEW: England 1813

Lady Ivy Fenwick and her three sisters, all named after flowers, live in their crumbling home, Fenwick Manor which has been around since the Tudor times.  Their mother passed away years ago and their father was killed in a duel after he had been caught cheating at cards.  The sisters have had to sell off many of the artifacts in the house to keep themselves going.  In addition, they have a private garden where they grow most of what they eat.  However, things are still quite dire which has inspired Ivy to look for a position as a governess.

James, the Duke of Ellsworth, lives nearby Fenwick Manor in his home, Ellsworth Park. Intrigued by Fenwick Manor, he is looking to perhaps purchase the property.  But when he approaches the property, he realizes that it houses four lovely women all ready to defend their home.

Soon after, James finds himself in charge of caring for two children so he immediately advertises for a governess just at the same time that Ivy advertises looking for a position.  Although there are many applicants for the job, James selects Ivy and is quite happy with his choice.

Thus begins an attraction between James and Ivy that cannot be denied.  At the same time, another man has heard that there might be treasure hidden in Fenwick Manor and does what he can to flatter the sisters to gain entry into their home and their lives.

The story has a good plot, however, the addition of the man inserting himself into Fenwick Manor could have been left out of the story.  For me, it was just too much and seemed to take away from the story of James and Ivy.  However, there are some humorous parts that will certainly make the reader smile.

Connie for b2b

‘Too Dangerous to Desire’ by Cara Elliott

tdtd ceSTORY: Can a Flame from the Past be Rekindled?

Long ago, Sophie Lawrance chose prudence over passion, rejecting a rebellious young rogue for the sake of her family-no matter the ache it left in her heart. But after a specter from her father’s past resurfaces, threatening to destroy all she holds dear, the desperate beauty knows there is only one man whose shadowy skills can save her.

Or Is It Too Dangerous to Play with Fire?

Cameron Daggett is a man of many secrets . . . and many sins. He’s never forgotten the pain of losing Sophie. But now, with a chance to win her back, Cameron sets aside his anger and agrees to help Sophie save her father’s honor. Together they embark on a perilous masquerade, leading them to a remote country estate near the sea. There, they must battle a cunning adversary-and their own burning desires. Will they be consumed by the flames? Or can they prove that true love conquers all?

REVIEW: This is the third book in Ms. Elliott’s Lords of Midnight Series and out of the three, my personal favorite.

If you love reading about bad boys, then you’ll love this one. Cameron is a thief that looks like a pirate (with an earring too). He is the last of the Hellhound that’s not taken the plunge or fallen into a parsons trap, but not for long.

Sophie is a vicar’s daughter by birth, and a devoted daughter and sister who would do anything to protect her family and avoid scandal. That’s why she braves the slums and enters the Wolf’s Lair to meet a man that’s endangering her family.

I always loved Cara Elliot’s prose, but once I read the intro into this story, I was hooked. Here is what Cam feels as he hears a familiar voice in the hallway of the hell …

“The voice stirred a myriad of memories… None of them good. Soft and sensuous as summer sunlight, it tickled around his head, a tantalizing whisper, wrapping his brain in a seductive swirl of honeyed heat and gold-kissed sweetness.

Another word floated through the half-open door and suddenly the sensations were like a serpent, trailing a sensuous slither over bare flesh, only to strike with diamond bright fangs.”

With a wonderful character development, fast pace and an intriguing mystery to be solved, this romance packs a well-rounded punch for all of my bookworms that love a second chances love story.

Melanie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

‘People I Want to Punch in the Throat: Competitive Crafters, Drop-Off Despots, and Other Suburban Scourges by Jen Mann

piwtpitt jmSTORY: A debut collection of witty, biting essays laced with a surprising warmth, from Jen Mann, the writer behind the popular blog People I Want to Punch in the Throat
 
People I want to punch in the throat:
• anyone who feels the need to bling her washer and dryer
• humblebraggers
• people who treat their pets like children
 
Jen Mann doesn’t have a filter, which sometimes gets her in trouble with her neighbors, her fellow PTA moms, and that one woman who tried to sell her sex toys at a home shopping party. Known for her hilariously acerbic observations on her blog, People I Want to Punch in the Throat, Mann now brings her sharp wit to bear on suburban life, marriage, and motherhood in this laugh-out-loud collection of essays. From the politics of joining a play group, to the thrill of mothers’ night out at the gun range, to the rewards of your most meaningful relationship (the one you have with your cleaning lady), nothing is sacred or off-limits. So the next time you find yourself wearing fuzzy bunny pajamas in the school carpool line or accidentally stuck at a co-worker’s swingers party, just think, What would Jen Mann do? Or better yet, buy her book.

REVIEW: Jen is a stay-at-home wife and mother to son, Gomer, and daughter, Adolpha. She’s not your typical perfect mom with the super clean house and career that she runs like a top. Well, who is for that matter? Jen wants to be a good mom and teach her children to respect others, and get along in this life. However, there are a lot of hurdles she has to cross to try and accomplish those goals.

Each chapter in this book tackles a different incident in her family’s life. They range from parents who do their children’s homework to dealing with people at a garage sale to buying sex toys at women’s parties.

Pick up a copy of this book and sit back ready to laugh because I guarantee that you will be snorting to yourself just like I did.

Enjoy!

Connie for b2b