Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

First off, let me just add my best wishes, hopes, and prayers for everyone back east who has been affected by hurricane Sandy.  The news has just been so gut wrenching and my thoughts have definitely been with everyone back there. 

Lastly, since I'm actually not a Halloween lover (although I really love the fall), I thought I'd share just about the funniest haunted house visit from the Ellen show that I've ever seen.  This was from last year and always has me laughing to tears.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Review: Most Talkative by Andy Cohen

Synopsis:  If you watch Bravo Television at all, you have to know Andy Cohen.  As the man behind the reality shows on Bravo and the host of Watch What Happens Live, Andy is that hilarious, reality super fan that we all somehow relate to.  Before becoming the man behind the Real Housewives franchise, Andy Cohen was a young pop culture fan from St. Louis, Missouri, who began to realize that he was something different from those around him.  Eventually, Andy came to terms with what made him different, which was that he was gay, and gained the strength to let it be known. 

After college, he came out to his friends and family, and proceeded to follow his dreams in television.  This led to his current, lucrative and exciting career with Bravo.  The stories he goes on to tell in this book are both poignantly personal and pop-culture, both memoir and tell-all. 

Review:  I have been a Bravo fan for a very long time.  In fact, I started watching the Real Housewive's franchise from day one of the Orange County ladies.  Andy Cohen was kind of a known extra cast member of sorts, to those of us who have followed these shows.  I think everyone who knows him, loves him!  Honestly, Andy Cohen has a great sense of humor, and a way of saying what he thinks about these women's crazy antics without really saying it and showing his bias.  In short, most fans of the network love Andy.

The thing I loved about his book was the candid way he talked about his own life and his own experience growing up and coming out as a gay man.  I did find it interesting that Andy seems to write of his coming out as part of his life, but not the defining feature of his life.  In coming out, his family seemed to embrace him and move on with life, so the person he speaks of with greatest fear was his good friend and college roommate.  I was so moved by his expression of fear and concern over telling his friend and really could start to appreciate how that must have felt for him.  In the end, his roommate embraced his coming out and the two are still good friends today.

There seems to be an integral connection between Andy's pop-culture obsession and his current job, all fueled by healthy doses of all that is uniquely Andy.  His memoir talks about his early days on national, morning television--including stories about Oprah Winfrey, various CBS news anchors, and other celebrities that made this a real page turner.  Just the stories behind the Housewives franchise (which really is a pretty small portion of the book), make it a must read for fans. 

I really enjoyed Andy's story.  There is such a nice mix of happy and serious, to really echo what we see with the real Andy Cohen on his show.  His anecdotes and memories are funny, fast-paced, and engaging.  Now I will just hope that he writes another book, with more great "behind the scenes" stories for us in a few years down the road!

*FTC Disclosure:  This review was based on a personal copy of the book.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Review: Dead in the Family by Charlaine Harris

Okay.  First of all, can I say how angry I am that I missed Charlaine Harris being here on Saturday?!?  I was grading book reports for end of term grades on Saturday, so I didn't end up making it.  Yep.  Angry.  I hope one of our awesome book bloggers in this area got to go and posts some pics for me!

Anyway, I didn't get to go, but I did finish Dead in the Family recently.  I'm still behind the most recent release, but I'm getting caught up!

Synopsis:  From Goodreads, "Sookie Stackhouse is dealing with a whole host of family problems, ranging from her own kin (a non-human fairy and a telepathic second cousin) demanding a place in her life, to her lover Eric's vampire sire, an ancient being who arrives with Eric's 'brother' in tow at a most inopportune moment. And Sookie's tracking down a distant relation of her ailing neighbour (and ex), Vampire Bill Compton.

In addition to the multitude of family issues complicating her life, the werewolf pack of Shreveport has asked Sookie for a special favour, and since Sookie is an obliging young woman, she agrees. But this favour for the wolves has dire results for Sookie, who is still recovering from the trauma of her abduction during the Fairy War."

Review:  I still love the Sookie Stackhouse series and will keep reading the books until I'm worn out--whichever comes first, I'll never know.  I will admit that I pick them up and find myself trying to remember how the previous book ended and what details I've maybe watched in the show on HBO, so that I can distinguish the stories.  This book was no exception to that.  I found that I still knew where I was at with the vampires, but the ever-changing wolf pack and who has died or been killed off by whom was still a struggle for me.

If you're looking for the progression of the Sookie and Eric storyline, then this was not quite the book for that.  The series seems to now be focusing more and more on Sookie's past, her parents, and her grandmother.  For now, that's definitely enough to keep me reading!  I'm glad there is still stuff to uncover, so I'll be there. 

In the end, what CAN you say about the tenth book in a series?  If you've read this far in a series, or plan on it, then you understand the writer's style and storytelling techniques.  This wasn't one of the ten that stood out the most to me, but I still really enjoy them for pure reading escape.

*FTC Disclosure:  This review was based on a library copy of the novel.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Review & Weekend Cooking: The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook

End of term is over, and thanks to one last six hour push yesterday, all is graded an in.  Thank.  Goodness.  I'm completely and utterly exhausted, which is perfect for sinking into many a good book today. 

In the meantime, I wanted to get back in the game with a little Weekend Cooking post and book review.  I managed to get my hands on a copy of The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook.  Yes, it's "unofficial," but with a couple of long months ahead of us as we painfully wait for season three, it still is pretty fun to check out the recipes that just might be cooked up for our famous Downton clan.

Set up in a pretty classic fashion, this cookbook is minus the glossy pictures we expect today.  In the post-Edwardian era, the cooking was an interestingly sauced bunch of meats and "veg," with puddings and pastries for dessert and tea.   The contents of the book are separated into two parts: Part 1, "Dining With the Crawleys"; and Part 2, "Sustenance for the Staff".  From there, the book is separated into twelve chapters--eight for the Crawleys and three for the staff.

One of the things that I found nice about this cookbook is that it breaks its chapters into the courses in the meal that you might have with the Crawleys (yes, I picture being there).  We open with Hors d'Oeuvres, soup and fish.  Then it moves to entrees, meat course, game and salads, vegetables, and then desserts.  You'll find plenty of things like oysters, ducks, and roasts galore, with fancy wine and mushroom sauces.  The desserts are also somewhat familiar, with chocolate mousses, cakes, and eclairs, but also contains an Apple Charlotte and Bakewell Tart recipe to remind us of another era.    Tea Time wraps up the Crawleys' section, with delightful scones, curds, and finger sandwiches that seem fairly simple and straightforward to make.

The staff doesn't seem to eat that poorly, but maybe a bit less sauced.  Their food feels a bit more like standard "Toad in a Hole," "Bangers and Mash," and "Bubble and Squeak".  As Americans, if you're not an Anglophile, these terms might make the food sound creepy and a bit frightening, but really it's just basic things like sausages and potatoes.

I really enjoyed the range of recipes in this cookbook and the whimsy of tying it to Downton Abbey and our favorite characters.  Honestly, this is more of a classic British food cookbook, but adds that nostalgic look at a time and show we have all been captivated by.  I've thoroughly enjoyed it and plan on trying out some of the soups in particular. 

Now, can we get back to the show at some point!?!  I'll be keeping my eye out for these glorious foods the next time the Crawleys or staff have a bit of a sit down.

Weekend Cooking is a great, weekly post run by Beth Fish Reads.  There are some really great food-related posts there.  Stop by to check out other great posts from this weekend.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

End of Term Woes

I miss my blog and dropping in to other blogs to see what everyone is reading and reviewing (or just up to).  Right now I'm on my way to end of term one, so things have spun out of control.  Every year and every term I've asked myself why can't I pull it together sooner, but it's just the nature of the beast. 

Well, that's really all I wanted to post.  Sadly, I spent a good deal of Friday night into Saturday with a killer migraine, so I've been playing catch up today (Sunday) to get papers graded.  I hope to post a review or two, but I think I'm going to be a bit absent from the blogosphere this week while I survive end of term. 

I'll be back soon, so don't give up on me!  :(  Also, thank you for so many kind words.  Year after year so many of you cheer me on, so thanks.  Be back soon...

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Review: Some Girls Bite by Chloe Neill

I'm so glad that I get such great recommendations from friends, bloggers, and coworkers, because I've been in need of books that I knew would hit a home run for me.  Although I've been a bit burned out by vampires and other paranormal characters, I was pretty interested when I saw the positive feedback for Chloe Neill's Chicagoland Vampire series, starting with Some Girls Bite.  Lots of people were talking about it, so I thought I should check it out. 

Synopsis:  From Goodreads, "Sure, the life of a graduate student wasn't exactly glamorous, but it was Merit's. She was doing fine until a rogue vampire attacked her. But he only got a sip before he was scared away by another bloodsucker-and this one decided the best way to save her life was to make her the walking undead.

Turns out her savior was the master vampire of Cadogan House. Now she's traded sweating over her thesis for learning to fit in at a Hyde Park mansion full of vamps loyal to Ethan "Lord o' the Manor" Sullivan. Of course, as a tall, green-eyed, four-hundred- year-old vampire, he has centuries' worth of charm, but unfortunately he expects her gratitude- and servitude. But an inconvenient sunlight allergy and Ethan's attitude are the least of her concerns. Someone is still out to get her. Her initiation into Chicago's nightlife may be the first skirmish in a war-and there will be blood."

Review:  This book starts with a bang.  Seriously.  There isn't much of a lead up to the main character, Merit's, being turned into a vampire.  Bam!  She has been turned and has to face her new reality.  Now she can no longer be the graduate student she once was; she now has to give it all up to choose a vampire "house" to belong to and how she'll fit into this whole new world that lives by night and sleeps by day.

Although we all have a general idea of the vampire world and genre, this series still grabs you.  Merit is a sassy character who's not interested in being a vampire and yet has to be.  Not only that, but she is somehow gifted with more talent than normal.  Yes, that feels familiar to a lot of fantasy stories, but it just fits here and I found myself pretty okay with it.  Also we find Merit quickly at odds against the head of the house that turned her, Ethan (I won't lie, the "E" name quickly put me in mind of Eric from another vampire series...).  Their chemistry is pretty immediate, but it is filled with animosity that I expect continues over many books to come.  In this first novel, their conflict is just getting started and paints Ethan as the jerk who pushes for too much, too soon.

All in all, I really enjoyed Some Girls Bite.  I did feel that although the book starts with Merit's evolution into a vampire, the actual story doesn't really build up and unfold until the last 1/4 of the book.  It was all right, but did take some time to pick up steam.  Once it did though, it was exciting and tense.  Needless to say, that also meant that the book ended with a lot left unsaid or done.  I'm now eager to see what happens to Merit and to find out if Ethan is as big of a turkey as he starts off or if it's all a "front."  I'm ready to keep reading to find out!

*FTC Disclosure:  This review was based on a library copy of the novel.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

End of Readathon & Sunday Blatherings

I'll just admit that I stand little chance of making it all the way through a readathon.  Especially with a flight home later tonight, I didn't want to make myself sick and nauseous (my go to response when I'm sleep deprived) by staying up too late.  Okay.  Total over-share, but you get my drift!

Here is my End of Readathon Survey response:

  1. Which hour was most daunting for you?  About 2 am here, which is midnight for me when I'm home.  I had to call it a night.
  2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?  I know it doesn't help you finish a book, but I like bouncing around a bit in what I read.  One thing I really enjoyed was reading a short novella, "Tweet the Police" that gave me that feeling of finishing something.  I also think that finishing books you're midway through is nice.  It gives you some settled time to really finish them up, which I love.
  3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?  Not really.  I love them and think they are always well run.  I appreciate that they are set up so we can all jump in when we can!
  4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?  I appreciate the camaraderie that comes from cheerleaders and the visiting bit behind the event.  It really does help keep you moving.
  5. How many books did you read?  1 1/4 novels and 1 novella
  6. What were the names of the books you read?  Stranger In My Arms by Lisa Kleypas, I started To Marry an English Lord, and read "Tweet the Police" by Ellis Drake.
  7. Which book did you enjoy most?  Well, all of them.  Honest.
  8. Which did you enjoy least?  None.
  9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?  I wasn't one this year, other than visiting people when I could.  They make a great difference.
  10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?  Yes, I'll be participating for sure.  I like hosting challenges, so I'll try to gear up for it.
 Well, that's that.  I'm so glad I got to jump into the readathon here or there, so now I have to gear up for my trip home from Michigan.  It's been a great trip, even though it was way too short.  To finish the day before I fly out, my friend "Doc" and I are watching a bit of Sherlock and I'm going to try to get some more grading wrapped up.

Time to get back to the grading and sorting of the luggage. 

How was your weekend, and if you participated in the readathon, how did you do? 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Readathon: Hour 15--Back to It

Well, I'm back from the apple farm (which was actually just an old-timey store), where we quickly went through the line to pick up some yummy homemade donuts and some fresh-pressed apple cider.  Yum!  We then headed into town to eat an early dinner and to check out some cool shops and antique stores.  Have I ever mentioned how gorgeous dishware was at the turn of the century?  It makes me wish we all sat down to elaborate table settings so I could own some beautiful, unique crystal and silver.

Anyway, I have to say that what we didn't count on was the Michigan home game filling the streets and making any "rush" pretty difficult.  On the way home we decided to try out Traverse Pie Co.'s famous cherry pie, as mentioned by Mario Batalli on his show The Chew.  Now I have a nice piece of truly delicious cherry pie and my stack of books to dive back into for a bit.  My doctor friend is falling asleep as I type this, so I'll be reading on my own for awhile.

I know I missed the Mid-Survey Event, but I want to join in and get going again.  Let's hope it sticks now!  Here we go:

Mid-Event Survey
1) How are you doing? Sleepy? Are your eyes tired?  Feeling more than ready to dive back into my reading!  I'm not really tired at all, but I've been out all afternoon.
2) What have you finished reading?  A Lisa Kleypas novel from earlier this morning.
3) What is your favorite read so far?   Well, my one read was pretty good.  :)  I have some more to read that all have me eager to get back to it.
4) What about your favorite snacks?  The Traverse Co. Cherry Pie is really delicious, so I'll say that is my favorite snack so far.
5) Have you found any new blogs through the readathon? If so, give them some love!  I haven't yet.  :(  Maybe now that I'm back I can catch a few new ones?

Thanks for all the kind words so far!  I'm off to keep reading To Marry an English Lord and a few others that I have on my e-reader.  I hope everyone is having a great readathon so far!

Fall Break & Readathon!

Good morning everyone!  I'm excited to say that I decided I had a few hours here or there today to join in "Dewey's Read-a-Thon" this time around.  I really didn't think I would be able to, so I held back.  This week we only had work through Wednesday and now we're off until this coming Tuesday.  It's been a little crazy for me, since I'm still slogging my way through a stack of essays that seem to never end.  (I think I need to just realize that I will ALWAYS have essays and papers to read.)

Anyway, we're off for Fall Break and I'm in Michigan, visiting my friend "Doc" (as she likes me to call her).  It was high time that I paid her a visit, so here I am!  It's been really nice so far, and I've had a chance to get a good bit of reading (and grading) done while I've been here.  Yesterday she had surgeries to attend to, so I was able to sleep in and then get up to do some work.

As for the readathon, I wasn't sure if I'd be able to have time today.  We're going to visit an apple farm today and maybe do a bit of shopping, but I have already read for a bit this morning and finished a book that I started last week.  Thanks to Tasha at "Truth, Beauty, Freedom, and Books," she pointed me in the direction of a Lisa Kleypas novel she thought I might like.  Yep, she was right.  I got up this morning and finished up the last 150 pages of it as my first read for the readathon.  I think that's a pretty good start.

Here are my stats so far then:
Number of books read since you started:  1 -- Stranger in My Arms by Lisa Kleypas
Running total of pages read since you started:  About 150
Running total of time spent reading since you started: 1.25
Mini-challenges completed:  Nothing yet.  We'll see if I get the chance!
Other participants you’ve visited:  None yet.  I'm going to do that now before we leave for the apple farm.

All right.  I'm off then!  I'm going to bounce around and visit a few folks to see how they're doing.  Then, I'm thinking I'll maybe read one of the following:

Well, that's part of my list of choices for today!  I better be off to check things out and then to get back to reading before we have to leave for the day.  How are you all doing?  Are you participating in the readathon?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Review: The Passage by Justin Cronin

Synopsis:  From Goodreads, "First, the unthinkable: a security breach at a secret U.S. government facility unleashes the monstrous product of a chilling military experiment. Then, the unspeakable: a night of chaos and carnage gives way to sunrise on a nation, and ultimately a world, forever altered. All that remains for the stunned survivors is the long fight ahead and a future ruled by fear—of darkness, of death, of a fate far worse.

As civilization swiftly crumbles into a primal landscape of predators and prey, two people flee in search of sanctuary. FBI agent Brad Wolgast is a good man haunted by what he’s done in the line of duty. Six-year-old orphan Amy Harper Bellafonte is a refugee from the doomed scientific project that has triggered apocalypse. He is determined to protect her from the horror set loose by her captors. But for Amy, escaping the bloody fallout is only the beginning of a much longer odyssey—spanning miles and decades—towards the time and place where she must finish what should never have begun."

Review:  I've had mixed feelings about writing a review about The Passage since it was so complex and I took way too long to read it.  After seeing Justin Cronin on Good Morning America, I went to pick up his novel.  Honestly, I was intrigued by the idea of a scientifically altered group of people unleashed on the world.  Cronin called them a type of vampire, so admittedly, that's how I went into the story.  These human monsters seemed about as far removed from any monster I'd read about and felt more like a story that echoed authors like Stephen King in The Stand.  

Overall, this novel is beyond complex.  There are characters galore, and time and gaps in time that make the story even more complex.  It feels like you just get used to a set of characters and we rotate to another set.  In a way, you really do need to dedicate some time to this novel and then keep at it.  This is not a book to start reading, put down, and come back to without considerable issues.

The gist of this novel is an apocalyptic story where a scientific experiment went so terribly wrong that it pretty much wiped out society.  Now we follow a small band of people who have survived and find out how they might just survive and not be looking behind their backs forever more.  How?  You find out some pivotal information near the end of the first book that really propels you into reading the next one out.  I won't lie.  It was a little bit of a "holy cow" sort of moment when you start to pull things together, and it is pretty interesting, but you have to read the next book to find out what really happens.

Let me be clear that this is not my normal read.  I didn't love it and I struggled to get through it.  That doesn't mean that it's not a good book and I'll be the first to admit it.  The story is engaging and requires your complete attention to keep characters and story lines straight.  However, I can see that this has a clear audience for readers who enjoy a thorough story that works to build up the world and its characters, putting an interesting twist to it all.  Although I felt a bit weary at the end, I can say that I'm glad I stuck it out.  That ending is pretty exciting and made me consider reading the next book!

For some alternate reviews, check out these bloggers:
 It's All About Books
 The Book Smugglers
 Hey Lady, Whatcha Readin'?

As you can see, I'm in the minority!  Most people LOVED this book.  If you've read it, please comment and let me know what you thought and feel free to leave a link to your own review.

*FTC Disclosure:  This review was based on a personal copy of the novel.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sunday Blatherings & Weekend Cooking

Happy fall!  Yes, I think it's really and truly here.  My air conditioning finally has pretty much stopped running and I'm about ready to switch it over to the heating part of central air.  Nice.  October is just a great month.  Other than my hectic life at work, I can't think of a single thing I don't love about this last part of the year. 

Heading into the weekend I noticed that I had picked up a bit of a cold, so I'm taking it easy and catching up on grading I have to finish before I leave for Michigan this next week.  I'm also cooking up a nice pot of turkey and wild rice soup.  Yum! 

Speaking of cooking, I have been playing around with cake recipes after picking up an amazing cake cookbook called Cake Boy by Eric Lanlard and a bit of a gift from my mother, the cookbook Vintage Cakes by Julie Richardson.  Growing up, we always made our baked good from scratch.  In fact, most of our recipes came from a little community cookbook of my grandmother's from the 1960s (which contained recipes from the early 1930s on).  I cherish that cookbook, but I love looking at other recipes that redo classics or share an updated version. 

Cake Boy is this amazing little cookbook that has a British/French flair.  Most of his cakes are "sponges" and are smothered in frosting.  There are amazing tart recipes, one of which is a wicked looking Bakewell Tart that I'm dying to try my hand at.  There are cheesecakes, cookies, and madeleines, all with detailed recipes and quite a few glorious pictures to go with the recipes.  In fact, last weekend I made a nice, chocolate sponge.  It was very brownie-like in its depth of chocolate flavor, and simply amazing.  Honestly, if I was going to recommend a cookbook, this would be the one.  You really have to check this out. (Here is a link to Cake Boy boutique in London.)

The second cookbook I've tried out is Vintage Cakes, which I got as a gift.  The pictures make "vintage" sound like it equates messy in some way, as some of the pictures feature cakes served on boards with frosting kind of running all over.  In their defense, it was mainly the Texas Sheetcake recipe, but I thought it was a pretty messy looking picture that I didn't think represented "vintage" in the way I pictured.  The recipes in this cookbook though are really nostalgic.  The Honey Bee Cake was one that I remember and I really want to try out, along with the Harvey Wallbanger.  There is a nice variety of cakes here and I really do love it.  Just look at that sweet cover!  Doesn't that speak for itself?

That's my weekend.  Maybe I'll post my turkey soup on another day?  For today, I thought I'd share a bit of cake magic.  Now, I'm off to eat a bowl of soup, although this post is making me wish I had a piece of cake!

Weekend Cooking is a great, weekly post run by Beth Fish Reads.  There are some really great food-related posts there.  Stop by to check out other great posts from this weekend.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Review: Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler

Synopsis:  From Goodreads, "I'm telling you why we broke up, Ed. I'm writing it in this letter, the whole truth of why it happened.

Min Green and Ed Slaterton are breaking up, so Min is writing Ed a letter and giving him a box. Inside the box is why they broke up. Two bottle caps, a movie ticket, a folded note, a box of matches, a protractor, books, a toy truck, a pair of ugly earrings, a comb from a motel room, and every other item collected over the course of a giddy, intimate, heartbreaking relationship. Item after item is illustrated and accounted for, and then the box, like a girlfriend, will be dumped."

Review:  I had mixed feelings about this book. In the beginning I really liked how different it was from many of the other young adult "break up" novels I'd read, with its chapters each centered around some item that came from their relationship.  Throughout the novel we see these gifts or relics of their relationship that each have a story behind them.  Min reminisces about each item, telling Ed what her experience was with them and how she felt.  It was an interesting idea for a break up, which is why it first caught my attention.  What person hasn't wanted to open up and spill their emotions about certain events and items to their ex?  I know I have!

After a certain point, as the story built and we learned how this couple came to be, I did start to lose interest.  I think that to some degree, because I knew it was this letter to Ed, I felt like she was verging on being mental to need to keep harping on it all.  I suppose it was my concern for how Min would come across to her ex that made me check out.  Having said that, I think this novel is unique and brings this almost fresh approach to the break up story.    Although I felt it was all a bit overdone by the end, I still think it was an interesting read.

Just as a side note, the other day one of my students came walking in with this book.  When I asked her what she thought, she gushed (yes gushed!) and said, "I love how he gets a teen break up."  I guess that's my answer.  Although it wore me out, maybe it's the extended emotional mess that teens really feel and I just forget?  It was fun getting that view from my student.  Thankfully they reign in my cynical eye, right?

*FTC Disclosure:  This review was based on an advance review copy from Amazon's "Amazon Vine" program.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Les Miserables Film News

I just can't get enough.  Thanks to Angieville, now that I'm catching up on blogs, she pointed out the extended look that's been put out for Les Miserables that comes out at Christmas.  Another teacher (and friend) at work and I are going to take our students to see the film, so I'm always eager to hear more about it.  I'm a little sad that it's not going to come out mid December as at first projected, but I still can't wait.  Besides, my Les Miserables obsession has been well documented here on my blog! 

Here is the official trailer.  Check it out.

And here is that extended first look:

I can't wait!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Review: The Love of Her Life by Harriet Evans

Let me take a step away from the mafia madness of my review last week to post something that was romantic, real, and emotionally raw.  Once I hit about the half way mark of The Love of Her Life, I couldn't put it down.  This was the book that really started my reading binge lately, and what a reading binge this was!  I have thought about the emotional ups and downs of this book now for over and week and still can't get it out of my head.  This is one of those books that for me, I realize I'll never get back that "first time" reading experience.  What a gem to find at a crazy moment in the year.

Synopsis:  From Goodreads, "In London, Kate Miller had an enviable life: an exciting job at a fashion magazine, an engagement and a wedding to plan. Then it all fell apart -- spectacularly, painfully, and forever. That was three years ago...and she fled to New York City to live with her mother and stepfather.

Now Kate is a true New Yorker, in love with the pace and rhythm of Manhattan. But deep down, she knows her life is in a holding pattern, that there is something -- someone -- more to love. But when her father becomes ill, Kate realizes it's time to return and face the friends and the memories she left behind. What really happened before Kate left London? Can she pick up the pieces and allow herself to love life again?"

Review:   This book was the biggest emotional roller coaster!  I felt so incredibly jerked around by every emotion possible.  For much of the first 1/3 of the book, we're given a view of Kate's life in bits and pieces, starting with her time in New York City.  Nothing makes sense and there are only hints of drama to come.  Frustratingly, all we get are little glimpses and foreshadowing of events, characters, and relationships to come.  Let me be honest, I was a bit bored through that first 1/3 of the book.  It was slow and kept giving me information about people and situations that didn't make sense.  Why did she act uncomfortable around her supposed best friend?  Why did this guy act so mean to her?  Why did she run off from London?  What is her problem; she's acting like a drama queen and I can't figure out why!  Trust me.  It all gets answered eventually.

Near the end of the first half of the book, there is a huge twist in events that makes every previous action or conversation make sense.  All of the back and forth in time suddenly becomes crystal clear, and I had to go back and reread certain scenes in the book because they suddenly made sense!  From that point on, I could NOT put this book down.

This was one of those books that had me uttering things aloud, gasping at scenes, and choking with emotion.  I even started to cry during several scenes, mainly out of the complex range of emotions I was feeling for and with the characters.  This is not a casual read, nor is it a simple, romantic story.  Please trust me when I say that it's complicated.  Once again, Harriet Evans captured real life and love in a complex way that felt true to life and the characters she was writing.  I really loved this novel and can't recommend it enough.  If you're ready for strong emotions and a storyline that have you guessing, then please read this book!  Enough said.

*FTC Disclosure:  This review was based on a personal copy of the novel.