Genre: Womens Fiction

Review: The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman

Posted May 17, 2017 by Lily B in Reviews / 21 Comments

Review:  The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi WaxmanThe Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman
Series: standalone
Published by Berkley Books on May 2nd 2017
Genres: Womens Fiction, Chick-Lit
Pages: 368
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Heat:one-flame

Lilian Girvan has been a single mother for three years—ever since her husband died in a car accident. One mental breakdown and some random suicidal thoughts later, she’s just starting to get the hang of this widow thing. She can now get her two girls to school, show up to work, and watch TV like a pro. The only problem is she’s becoming overwhelmed with being underwhelmed.
At least her textbook illustrating job has some perks—like actually being called upon to draw whale genitalia. Oh, and there’s that vegetable-gardening class her boss signed her up for. Apparently being the chosen illustrator for a series of boutique vegetable guides means getting your hands dirty, literally. Wallowing around in compost on a Saturday morning can’t be much worse than wallowing around in pajamas and self-pity.
After recruiting her kids and insanely supportive sister to join her, Lilian shows up at the Los Angeles Botanical Garden feeling out of her element. But what she’ll soon discover—with the help of a patient instructor and a quirky group of gardeners—is that into every life a little sun must shine, whether you want it to or not…

I really needed something different and fun in my reading life, so when dear Heidi over at Rainy Day Ramblings personally recommended this book, I jumped at the chance to read it.

Guys, I cannot express how much I adored this book. It did exactly what I need it to do. It pulled me out of my reading slump and offered me a book with so much fun, laughter and a lot of heart.

Lilian Girvan is a widow. Her husband died a couple of years ago in a car collision right outside of their house and left Lilian with two little girls. Lilian had a hard time recovering from his death at first and actually had to be admitted to a hospital. Her sister Rachel provided a huge support network not only helping Lilian get past her husband’s death, but also in taking care of the kids.

Now Lilian is working as an illustrator and her company is hired to illustrate a gardening book. They only have one request. Lilian must take a gardening class. So after recruiting her sister and her daughters to join her in the class on weekends, Lilian’s world opens up to the great group of gardeners that might be just what the doctor ordered.

This book was fantastic. The writing was super great, super fun and I adored Waxman’s humor, it was just my kind of cup of tea. I was super surprised that this was her debut novel and also a bit disappointed because I so want more of the author’s writing. I cannot wait for her next book to come out, it is definitely going on my auto buy list.

This book is just great for the spring and summer alike. As a gardener myself. I adored the gardening aspect of the story. I also love the quirky gardening guides between the chapter breaks, they had me rolling with laughter.

All the characters were wonderful and endearing. I adored’ Lilian and her daughters. I love the interactions between Lilian and the characters – especially her two little girls. I also loved the strong sister bond between Lilian and Rachel. Really, I just loved everything about this book. The supporting extra characters in this book also just really added both heart and depth to this story.

The only thing that made this a little frustrating was the open ending. I kind of wanted to know a little more and not just where Lilian’s character was going, but also Rachel’s. I guess I could almost understand why the author wrapped it up the way she did, but I still found that I really did want that closure.

Overall, I am looking forward to more of Waxman’s writing. If you are looking to add to your summer book read, I highly recommend this one.

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Review: My Jane Austen Summer by Cindy Jones

Posted May 15, 2017 by Lily B in Guest Post, Reviews / 22 Comments

I hope everyone had a great mother’s day weekend. This afternoon I have Sophia Rose back with another review to start this lovely week. Hope you enjoy it and leave her some love.

Review: My Jane Austen Summer by Cindy JonesMy Jane Austen Summer: A Season in Mansfield Park by Cindy Jones
Series: standalone
Published by HarperCollins Publishers on April 1st 2011
Genres: Womens Fiction
Pages: 324
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 3 Stars
Heat:three-flames

A down on her luck woman goes on an Austen-inspired journey of self-discovery in Jones's middling debut. After Lily Berry loses her mother, gets dumped by her boyfriend, and is fired, she finds in her passion for all things Jane Austen (Jane, indeed, is Lily's imaginary friend) an escape route: she travels to England to participate in a Jane Austen re-enacting festival. Full of enthusiasm—but not acting talent—Lily is not embraced by many of the Janeites, but this doesn't prevent her from meeting a charismatic actor, contending with an impossible roommate, and struggling with dark family secrets, all while trying to find the courage to be the protagonist of her own story. While Jones does a credible job of creating a heroine in transition, Lily's process of self-realization isn't nearly as involving as the subplots, which is quite unfortunate, considering how much time is devoted to sussing out her issues.

This book has been setting on my shelf for some time. I originally picked it up because I loved the idea of reading about a woman traveling overseas to work a summer gig as an actress and all around Girl Friday at a Jane Austen festival held on an English country estate. A fun ‘travel themed’ group read with my GoodReads group gave me the motivation to get going with this book.

I dove in with a little excitement and soon sat back on my heels. This was not going to be a light and fun summer read like I expected. The heroine, Lily, goes well beyond quirky. She has some very real issues that she is refusing to acknowledge by hiding between the covers of her favorite Jane Austen novels- her mother’s death, her father’s rapid replacement of his wife with a younger model, losing her job, losing her boyfriend whom she stalks thinking he’ll change his mind though he has moved on, and finally her determination that she can live out a life like/as a Jane Austen heroine got into some heavy issues and set the tone and pace of this slow moving gentle story.

There is a strong connection to Mansfield Park which I thought was handled well in a modern story. It’s not a one to one correspondence like a retelling which I thought was a smart move. It’s there and noticeable especially when Lily herself starts to not just realize, but purposes to follow the formula in the original novel seeing herself as Fanny Price fending of a rich man’s tempting assurances, pining over a man who has committed to someone else, dealing with disappointment and jealousy over a rival, and being tempted to be the woman who was seduced then discovered she was temporary goods.

While I appreciated some of this story, I stayed disconnected from it and the heroine throughout. I was glad to see her growing and finding herself, but my practical side kept screaming at me that she needed to seek some counseling to deal with the losses and grief and her unhealthy retreat into her imaginary world. She was very deep into that world and stayed there which I think plays a huge role in why I couldn’t get into her- I couldn’t find the real Lily very well. And that ending. Open. I know some people not only tolerate, but love them. I fall at the other end of the spectrum.

I think when all’s said and done, I would have appreciated this more if I would have anticipated this book differently. I didn’t pay attention to the way it was classified and labeled. I went in seeing a light, even comedic, read when it was more a serious women’s fiction about a heroine finding herself and putting distance with her past issues and fails.

So, it was a little satisfying and I’m glad I read it, but it is a story that left me still wanting.

About Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.

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Review: A Million Little Things by Susan Mallery

Posted March 13, 2017 by Lily B in Reviews / 12 Comments

Review:  A Million Little Things by Susan MalleryA Million Little Things by Susan Mallery
Series: Mischief Bay #3
Published by Mira Books on February 28th 2017
Genres: Womens Fiction, Chick-Lit
Pages: 368
Format: Kindle Edition
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 2 Stars
Heat:two-half-flames

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.


From the bestselling author of
The Girls of Mischief Bay
and
The Friends We Keep
comes a twisty tale of family dynamics that explores what can go terribly, hysterically wrong when the line between friendship and family blurs



Zoe Saldivar is more than just single-she's ALONE. She recently broke up with her longtime boyfriend, she works from home and her best friend Jen is so obsessed with her baby that she has practically abandoned their friendship. The day Zoe accidentally traps herself in her attic with her hungry-looking cat, she realizes that it's up to her to stop living in isolation.
Her seemingly empty life takes a sudden turn for the complicated-her first new friend is Jen's widowed mom, Pam. The only guy to give her butterflies in a very long time is Jen's brother. And meanwhile, Pam is being very deliberately seduced by Zoe's own smooth-as-tequila father. Pam's flustered, Jen's annoyed and Zoe is beginning to think "alone" doesn't sound so bad, after all.

Friendship isn't just one thing-it's a million little things, and no one writes them with more heart and humor than book club sensation Susan Mallery!

"

I usually like Susan Mallery’s writing, I struggled with this one on a lot of levels.

The book follows three different women in three different stages of their lives.

Zoe has just had sex with her ex-boyfriend who couldn’t commit. She bought a bigger house and quit her teaching job because apparently for some reason (even thought he didn’t give her much) she thought she was going to need to be a step-mother to his daughters and that he was going to propose…

Jen is Zoe’s best friend and is a stay at home mom that constantly worries. Her 18-month-old child has hit every single milestone in his development with the exception of talking. Jen firmly believes that there is something wrong with her son, even thought everyone else is telling her to give it time. Her husband is a detective and she doesn’t like his partner Lucas because he likes his women too much.

Pam is Jen’s mother and has always been a good friend to Zoe. She is a widow and isn’t looking for love, but she was quick to try and hook up her son Steven with Zoe because she thought they would be good for each other. She also meets Zoe’s father Miguel, who wants to date her.

So there is a lot of things going on in this book, there is some romance and dealing with issues and parenting. I just struggled with this because ever character was tough to like and the plot twist the author threw in the middle of the book felt displaced and I found myself angry.

I hated Jen, she was not only horrible to her husband’s partner, but everyone else around her.  She thinks there is something wrong with her son and she does everything she can to limit his exposure to freaking everything. Her mother’s dog cannot come into her house unless he had a bath the day off. Anytime her friend or mother shows up at her house, she is confused and asks them if she knew they were coming. She is into organic eating, no chemicals in her house, and everything has to be made of cotton and nothing that might be dangerous. Everyone she takes her son to tell her to give him time, that all the tests they did do not reveal anything wrong with her son, and she still explodes on them. She hates Lucas because he won’t settle down and dates 20 year olds and thinks he is going to lead her husband astray, based on what logic? I am not sure.

Okay, let me point out that mothers with autistic children do not act like freaking idiots okay? My sister has a daughter, who she believed something was wrong with her after two years of not talking. When she took them to the doctor, they did tests and did find that she was in fact behind. No one told her to give her time, when they saw something, they did something, so when Jen constantly stood defiantly against the doctors claiming no, something is wrong, it was grating.

And of course, it spectacularly bites her in the ass half way through the book. I cannot mention what happens, but it took me everything to finish this damn book.

I felt like there was a ton of mixed signals in this book and it felt like the author was preaching some kind of an agenda. I didn’t like how mothers with autistic children were addressed and painted in this book, it was unrealistic and it made me so angry.

I didn’t like how unplanned pregnancy was addressed in this book either, especially given the situation. It felt like there was the only right answer to what happened here and anything is might as well rain fire.

Pam turned into a very ugly person by the end of this book and the way she was treating Zoe was unfounded and vicious.

I had a really, really hard time with the tone and the messages in this book. I even had the worse time agreeing with anything that happened.

I was actually happy when things bit Jen in the ass both times, but everything still felt just too wrong for me.

After writing this review.. I’ve decided a 2 star rating was appropriate after all. I know a lot of people loved it, and it’s great, but some things just did not do well for me at all.

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