Book Review: Jilted

Lynda Turner has struggled with depression since her husband abandoned her and their young daughter fifteen years ago. Yet unexpected hope awakens when a local ex-convict shows interest. As long-hidden secrets resurface, Lynda must fight for her emotional stability and for a life in which the shadow and shame is replaced by the light of love. 

Jilted is the story of a woman who has lost the joy of living, of a man determined to draw her back toward happiness and of a town that must-once and for all- leave the past where it belongs. It is a gentle reminder that all things can work together for good. 

Jilted is Book 3 of the Mended Hearts Series, which you can find out more about here.

I did read Jilted before the other two but though the stories are entertwined, the author does a great job of making connections for you so I didn't feel like I was missing out by reading book 3 last. 

I think as someone who has seen their fair share of family drama, this book really resonated with me, as I am sure it will many people. We all have our pasts and drama and I think it's impossible to have a family and not face tough decisions and emotional situations. 

Lynda faces these head on. Imagine your life one way and the next day, it looks completely different. You look at your past and question how you didn't see it coming all along and you look to your future, and it looks nothing like you had once imagined. How do you live in the present when everything is so unsure? 

Jilted is a great story, not only because of the author's talent but also because of the stories that every woman can relate to. From love, to motherhood, depression and finding a new outlook on life just when you feel desperate for answers. 

Thanks to RadiantLit for the opportunity to read Jilted. 

Show Us Your Books May Edition

Show Us Your Books is here, get your Goodreads account ready because you'll want to be adding these to your "To Read" list! 

May seemed like a crazy month but now, looking back and compared to June, May was a breeze! I managed to read a TON, thanks to the hammock I got as a mother's day present, which has this magical pull it seems to put on me, makes me forget any household chores that need to be done and holds me captive and makes me lay down and read. I can't say I hate it. I also read poolside while the kids swam close by a couple of times, which is always so fun. Summer reading is my favorite- a little sun on my shoulders, the kids are always having fun and I get to just lay back and read. It's the best of all things! 

I've put the books I read in May into 2 groups: First, that ones I would very highly recommend and am still thinking about, weeks after finishing them: 

I posted my review for Sweetbitter last week, so be sure to check out my full review. It was a really, really good read, guys. Totally not a typical "girl moves to the big city and meets a man" tale. Tess literally has no idea, no street sense, no friends or family to help her, she just decides to move to NYC. She gets a job at a popular restaurant and totally sucks at being a back waiter. But not for long, because she works her ass off to learn the ropes and is soon scaling the ranks and climbing the ladder that is cut throat restaurant scene. The writing is hot, daring and gritty. There is a ton of food porn in this so if you love learning about great wine and luxurious food, this is it. 

Favorite quote: “Any business transaction—actually any life transaction—is negotiated by how you are making the other person feel.” 

The Assistants by Camille Perri- This one will be on my top recommendations for a while too. Tina Fontana is an assistant who works for a big name corporation as the CEO's main go-to-girl. Her boss makes millions and she doesn't even make 6 figures. So what happens one day when an expense report for her boss gets mess up and she receives a reimbursement check in her name? Does she deposit it into her own account or let accounts payable know about the mistake? Does she use the money to pay off her student loans? What if no one finds out? Chances are, a man who makes that much money, who puts new golf clubs and trips to the Cape on his expense reports and writes them off as "business" won't even notice if Tess takes the money. What if someone catches her? And then, even worse, what if that person who catches her wants in on the action and blackmails her into making their own money, illegally? All of these "what ifs" add up to a pretty great read about how far we will let money take us and whether or not we're too hungry for the finer things in life to do the right thing... 

Favorite quote: "Go ahead and underestimate me some more, I dare you." 

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld- A modern day retelling of Pride and Prejudice. Do I really need to go on? Jane and Liz, plus CrossFit, Yoga and texting. I just can't tell you how fun this book is. And Darcy is still Darcy, dark and broading but surprising, sweet and forward. There's mansions, travel and heartbreak. I literally read over 100 pages in an afternoon and barely noticed the time passing. It's a must. 

Favorite quote: “There’s a belief that to take care of someone else, or to let someone else take care of you—that both are inherently unfeminist. I don’t agree. There’s no shame in devoting yourself to another person, as long as he devotes himself to you in return.”

Now on to my second set of books: I loved most of these books and still recommend them but they just didn't grab my attention as much as the others. Still all worthy reads:

The After Party - I am a sucker for 50s era so I loved the descriptions of the clothes and enjoyed the relationship between Cece and her husband, Ray. I also loved Cece's discovery of motherhood and how much she loves her son, Tommy. The plot really revolves around Cece and her best friend Joan, a self - destructive party lover who sleeps around and treats Cece terrible. Even though Cece is devoted to her friend, has helped her out of numerous unsavory situations and covered for her even as rumors swirl about her slutty behavior. I wanted Cece to forget about Joan from the very beginning and grew frustrated with her as she repeatedly obsessed about Joan's whereabouts. It took too long to figure out why Cece and Joan were so tied together., but when the author finally reveals why their bond is so strong, you forgive her that it took so long.  For the most part, this was a good weekend read but  I wanted to know more about her life as Cece and herself and not so much about her self absorbed friend. 

A Girl's Guide to Moving On - I listened to this on audio and maybe it was the reader's habit of ending everything the characters said in a question but this was a hard no for me.  It's basically about Nicole and her ex-mother-in-law, LeAnne, who are moving on after separating from their cheating husbands. It has Lifetime movie written all over it and with lots of canned quotes. 

Girl Underwater - I also listened to this via audio C.D. and it passed the time really well. There's a plane crash that leaves two young people, both swimmers on a collage swim team with 3 young boys as the only survivors. They are stranded for 5 days and there is a lot of emotion and strife that goes on during those 5 days. The books goes back and forth between chapters, sometimes describing their 5 days stranded in the mountains, other times flashing forward to life after the crash. It's a little too YA for me but there was great narration and character building so I enjoyed it.  Read my full Goodreads Review Here. 

Miller's Valley - I would still recommend this, although it moved a little slow and focused more on issues rather than action but I enjoyed the story it had to tell. This was on my summer's reading list and I was given a copy via NetGalley so I definitely wanted to get it read and I am glad I did. My own community has been effected by "dam" drama and flooding so the problems in the book resonated with me. I really really enjoyed the drama within the main story's family, especially the introverted and home-bound aunt and the troubled brother. Worth your time to pick this up and definitely consider as a book club read because there are many different topics to discuss! Read my full Goodreads Review here. 

One fun thing about these books this month is that I tried to captures some fun images for my That's What She Read Instagram account: 

Thanks to Jana and Steph for another great Show Us Your Books link up!

Book Review: Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler

If you've seen me raving about a certain book on Instagram, Twitter or my new best friend, Litsy (Follow me @JenniferJR) there's a really good reason why. 

Because this little gem is amazing, simply put.

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler- It's set in New York, with lots of wine and food mixed in. Really, there's everything to love about that combination. 

First I have to tell you that the fact that this book exists is a great story in itself. Author Stephanie Danler was a waitress in a popular eatery in the West Village, when she pitched her book idea to a customer. That customer happened to be a publisher, who was blown away by the story and thus, Danler was given an unprecedented 6 figure two-book deal by Knopf Publishing. It's basically Cinderella in author world. There was a lot of build up and hype over this and the book totally lives up to it. 

It's the story of Tess- a brave yet scared and clueless 20-something who moves to New York, not to "be somebody" like many others who flock to the Big Apple to make something of themselves, but really, just to live and be in charge of herself. She gets hired at a popular restaurant and immediately gets eaten alive by her co-workers. The servers, bar tenders, back waiters and chefs at this restaurant are veterans of the fast paced world of restaurant work and Tess has to work her ass of in order to stay afloat. 

The first half of the book was like all of your favorite shows in one: Naked and Afraid, Hell's Kitchen, Chopped and the Bachelor. Because you just know everyone is sleeping with each other when they work until midnight and then party all night afterwards. 

There's an air of mystery or almost illusion in the way Danler writes that was magical to me. I love stories that make me think "Did that just happen?" and then when I reread more carefully, I understand the gravity of the scene. I love that subtle intensity, which is the biggest oxymoron, but there literally are times where you have to read between the lines to get to the meat of the story. 

Tess notices the bartender, Jake and is sucked into this weird vortex with him and alpha-server, Simone. There's a lot of drama as you go back and forward, trying to decide if Jake is someone you want to make out with or knee in the groin and whether or not Simone is friend to admire, or an enemy to avoid. 

After a lot of studying and practice, Tess emerges as a woman who takes the veil off her own eyes for once. She knows the ropes, stops taking shit, pushes her limits and starts asking herself for more, which I think is so empowering for women. It's quite the transition. The language and writing in Sweetbitter is powerful. 

For one, I've never wanted to try truffles and oysters more in my entire life. The descriptions of the food are amazing. Second, the book was sexy and dangerous, but not in a dime store paperback way at all. It was hot, but in a smokey, corner-of-the-bar way where things are happening right in front of people but they aren't paying attention kind of way. 

Sweetbitter is the first book that has really made me stop, drop and read in a long time. I literally didn't do anything besides try and figure out more time to read. That meant reading poolside, staying up until 1:00 a.m. and sneaking into the hammock and reading while the kids zonked out in front of Netflix after long days at the pool. A bookworm has gotta do what a bookworm's gotta do. 

Step outside your comfort zone and order up a helping of this book, because you'll be asking for seconds. 

Sunday's on the Phone with Monday

Let's talk about a wonderful novel, shall we? I just so happen to have one to share with you: 

I have always been a follower of family drama, probably because I am at pro at the sport by now, but mainly, because I love discovering the emotions that fuel the human condition. And families have it all: trust, love, hatred, unconditional ties, forgiveness and time. And this book has all of that.

About the book: Claudio and Matilde are a couple with 3 daughters, one of whom needs a new heart and another who is adopted. Claudio goes to great depths to keep his family together but sometimes that means keeping secrets at the risk of hurting the same people he wants to keep close. The characters are all impossibly unique. Just when you think you've got them figured out, the author digs a little deeper and explains their emotions in a way that is totally engaging and intriguing:

A little about the author: Christine Reilly lives in New York City. She has taught at Sarah Lawrence College, the Dalton School, and Collegiate School. She received her Bachelor’s degree from Bucknell University and her Master’s degree in writing from Sarah Lawrence College. 

Sunday’s on the Phone to Monday is her first novel.  I got an amazing chance to interview Christine about some of the thoughts and motivation behind her story and she really inspired me in my own writing. 

First, I want to know a little about the inspiration behind Claudio and Matilde. They are a great couple, I love how easy they fit together, but at the same time, you can see as they age, they are almost a little too comfortable? Did you know that was going to happen as you wrote the story?
There's the saying "write what you know," but there's also "write what you want to know about," and I've found that with fiction I almost always tend to steer towards the latter.  I'm very curious about what I haven't lived through.  I am lucky to have parents who've had a long and wonderful marriage, as well as both sets of grandparents, so I've witnessed it, but I'm inexperienced with the private and firsthand side of such a relationship.  So part of the fun with writing Claudio and Mathilde's relationship over the years was examining what that relationship would be like.

Do you have sisters? Did your relationships in your own life help you to imagine the relationship between Lucy, Natasha and Carly? 
Actually, no- I have two brothers.  Like Lucy, I am the middle child.  I have always been fixated on the idea of sisters, and I write constantly about them.  I also think that I am every character in my book.  

Who was your favorite character to write? 
Jane.  I also wrote most of her scenes last, when I was 25.  I wrote the rest of the book mostly between ages 22 and 24.  

Jane's had many facets and dark thoughts, was it difficult to develop her character? 
Yes, but I've always had a dark side.  I think all humans do.  I found accessing it through Jane to be therapeutic.  So Jane, thank you.

My note: I am so in love with this answer. I agree about having a dark side and that's why writing is such a brave and fearless art to follow, because you really do have the chance to put it all out there. 

What books influenced you as a writer?
So many -- I read all kinds of books.  Some of the authors who have influenced me the most are Jennifer Egan, Truman Capote, Vladimir Nabokov, Toni Morrison, Tim O'Brien, James Baldwin, Amy Bloom, Maile Meloy, and Jeffrey Eugenides.

What are you reading right now? I'm always reading multiple books -I like to read both fiction and nonfiction at the same time.  I just finished Fates and Furies, by Lauren Groff.  I was a fan of hers since I read The Monsters of Templeton many years ago.  I'm also reading The Younahlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton Di Sclafani, White Girls by Hilton Als, The Mare by Mary Gaitskill and Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnik.  

Is there a message in your novel that you hope readers will grasp?
Not a message, but a word -- "always."

Sunday's on the Phone to Monday is available in print, audio and e-book. Get your copy now!