Monday, September 30, 2013

Beautiful Ruins

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

I borrowed the audiobook on CD from my local public library.

My review:

A beautiful, dying actress in a nowhere Italian village in 1962, a frustrated film student-turned-production-assistant in modern-day LA, and an intriguing supporting cast that includes Richard Burton are the subjects of Beautiful Ruins. The story winds its way through decades and time zones, finally linking everyone's story back together into a beautiful, tragic, hopeful whole.

Beautiful Ruins won an Audie Award as runner-up to the 2013 Audiobook of the Year. It is well-deserved. The reader, Edoardo Ballerini, nails every character and his or her background and accent.

Stars: 4

Runability: 5

Friday, September 27, 2013

Happy Women Live Better

Happy Women Live Better by Valorie Burton

I received a free review copy from the publisher via NetGalley.

My review:

Happy Women Live Better aims to reveal thirteen "happiness triggers" to help women to lead happier, more fulfilled lives. These triggers are things like "exercise," "flow," "gratitude," and "service." Burton talks about the role of these triggers in her own life and strives to encourage other women to incorporate them into their own routines, as well.

Burton begins the book by looking at studies that indicate that women's happiness levels have significantly decreased since the 1970s, and she argues that this is due to the pressure women now feel to "have it all." Before they expected to work full-time in demanding careers outside the homes, she claims, they were able to focus on the nurturing of their homes and families, which they found more fulfilling, less stressful, and more conducive to a happy life.

Unfortunately, this argument becomes a main message of the book, even in sections that have little to do with career. Burton adds a caveat occasionally that some women may be happiest when working outside the home and that some women may need to, but the sense of the book is that most married women should take a lesser role in providing the family income. This attitude obviously stems in part from her particular Christian worldview, though she does not draw an explicit connection between the two. While she hopes to help women take some of the pressure off of themselves to "do it all," she may unwittingly add a layer of guilt by pressuring them to spend more time at home when they are unable to do so.

The "happiness triggers" will lead to more contentment and happiness in the average person's life, but they will be little new to a frequent reader of women's magazines (gratitude journals, volunteering, etc.). The examples of specific everyday application are also few and far between. For a more practical and scientifically-backed look at ways to increase everyday happiness, pick up David Niven's The 100 Simple Secrets of Happy People.

Stars: 3

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Inner Harbor

Inner Harbor by Nora Roberts

I downloaded the audio book from the public library's OverDrive service.

My review:

Inner Harbor is the third book in Roberts' Quinn Brothers of Chesapeake Bay Saga (read my reviews of the first, Sea Swept, and the second, Rising Tides). It follows the third Quinn brother, Philip, the advertising professional who lives in Baltimore and really, really likes fancy suits and expensive wine. He was my least favorite of the four Quinn brothers, and I was hesitant to follow him for an entire book.

Phil proved to be more interesting than I expected. Though his present bored me, his past was a good story, and it got to play a larger role than Phil's character in the previous books had led me to expect. The love interest was delightfully involved in the ongoing mystery of Seth's origins, and we finally get some answers about the boy's parentage.

Unfortunately, the love interest tended toward stock character and I found her frigid, boring, and unrealistic. At this point in the larger story arc, however, it was possible to overlook her failings as a character and enjoy this continuation of the series.

Stars: 3.5

Runability: 3.5

I enjoyed this book more than I anticipated. The audio reading of it was also better than I was expecting, given that this recording is being re-done with a different voice actor. I was able to get ahold of the older version, and I'm not sure why they feel the need to do a new version; this one was quite good and was not a jarring change from the reader who did the first two books in the series.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Savannah Breeze

Savannah Breeze by Mary Kay Andrews

I borrowed the audiobook on CD through my workplace's interlibrary loan service.

My review:

BeBe Loudermilk is a successful businesswoman, loving granddaughter, loyal BFF, and a few-times-divorcee in Savannah. After making the mistake of once again trusting the wrong man, BeBe is determined to get back on her feet and get her revenge, no matter how many horrifying motel bathrooms she has to scrub.

The sequel to Savannah Blues, this book features many of the same characters and a few new ones. Granddad, especially, stole my heart and made me laugh out loud. The reader struggled early on to bring convincing life to each character, but she hit her stride after a couple of chapters and most of the book was great listening.

Stars: 5

Runability: 4

Just delightful. I'm behind on my blogging, so that's all I'll say. But I had so much fun with this one and am so glad that I went to the trouble of getting it on audio. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Wedding Dress

The Wedding Dress by Rachel Hauck

I purchased the ebook from Barnes & Noble.

My review:

Rachel Hauck weaves together a cohesive story across two different eras. Charlotte is a modern-day bridal boutique owner who stumbles across a mysterious vintage gown; Emily is engaged and feeling family pressure to have the "right" wedding and life in 1912. As Charlotte begins trying to learn the history of the gorgeous dress in her possession, she finds more than a few mysteries attached to the gown and its past owners.

Telling a story on multiple stages, let alone in multiple time periods, is a challenge, but Hauck does it deftly. Emily's tale does not get short shift, even though the primary story line throughout is Charlotte's modern-day dilemmas. Even though both women struggle with discerning the right decisions, their story lines are unique, though related.

The faith aspect is lightly sprinkled throughout the book without being a main element. Christian readers will delight in the overt and subtle references to Scripture, while non-Christian readers will likely still find the book palatable.

Stars: 4