Happiness for Beginners

Happiness for BeginnersThe first Katherine Center novel I read was the Bright Side of Disaster. I immediately fell in love with her writing style and wit. Her characters were engaging, relatable and I wanted to be their friend. The stories sucked me in every single time. So, when I saw her new book, Happiness for Beginners, I knew I had to read it.

Those that know me know that when I pick up a book it is either impossible for me to put down and I devour it in a matter of days or it is impossible for me to finish and I struggle through to the last page over a month or two. In the case of Happiness for Beginners, I devoured it in a matter of three bedtime reading sessions. The night I finished it, I ignored my exhaustion (this little human I am growing is a tiny energy sucker) and my husband’s tales of his work day and eagerly turned each page. Two hours past my (admittedly lame) bedtime, I finally finished. It’s been a while since I read a book ending as satisfying as this one.

Helen’s (and sometimes Ellen, depending who is addressing her) character was another one of Center’s highly relatable and engaging characters. She isn’t perfect, but she is trying to find out who she is and to take control of her life. As she embarks on her journey on a highly dangerous wilderness survival trip – the kind that has been known to cause deaths but is under new management, so it’s all good – Helen is determined to make every step of her journey count. 

Along the way, Helen slowly starts to open her eyes to those around her and her past. Whether it’s the wilderness hike or her new found appreciation for Jake, her little brother’s annoying best friend, that finally opens her heart and mind up, is up to the reader to decide. I’d like to think it’s a little of both and Helen herself.

Either way, Happiness for Beginners was both entertaining and satisfying. I highly recommend not only checking our this novel by Katherine Center, but also checking out the rest of her novels.

Your Perfect Life

yourperfectlifeLisa Steinke and Liz Fenton crafted the perfect summer read with their debut novel Your Perfect Life. I have been a fan of these two writers and their blog for many years and have been eagerly awaiting this book for what felt like an eternity. As soon as it was available for pre-order, I hit my favorite button on Amazon (Buy Now) and counted down the days until the release date.

Between Casey’s celebrity hobnobbing and party-girl, single life and Rachel’s suburban fairytale turned modern day bored housewife, readers get to enjoy both sides of every woman’s fantasy – being single, wild and free while also being super mom and wife.

When I first started reading Your Perfect Life, my eyes may have rolled a little at the switching bodies storyline, but it was the well-developed and relatable characters that truly drew me into the story. I loved Casey’s attitude and drive and Rachel’s deep love for her family and could totally relate to her need to control everything without ever asking for help.

After about 3 or 4 chapters, I was hooked and could not put the book down. The more I read Casey in Rachel’s life and vice versa, the less I wanted them to switch back. Through the switch, each got to experience the one thing they longed for but were both too scared to try. For Rachel, it was having her own career and following her passion for journalism and for Casey, her deep, long-hidden desire to be a mother finally bubbled up to the surface.

What I loved most about this novel was that I was able to truly connect with both characters. As a driven, type-A person, I could put myself in Casey’s shoes and as a dreamer who is often far too rooted in reality, I was able to truly understand Rachel and the choices she made along the way.

For me, the hallmark of a great book is how sad I am when I turn the page and instead of finding more story, I instead find acknowledgements. A great story is one you don’t want to end and start to crave to know more about the characters and their stories. Your Perfect Life did just that for me – seriously Liz and Lisa, I need more!

Check out Girl in Nashville on Facebook to win an autographed copy!

Emily Giffin: The One & Only

TheoneandonlyWe’ve all been there – feeling your heart flutter just a little too much for someone we should absolutely not be having heart flutters for. While most of us feel it, few of us actually act on those flutters – especially when the flutters are for your best friend’s recently widowed father. Emily Giffin tackles this very topic in her latest novel, The One & Only.

Normally, I can devour Giffin’s novels in a matter of days. However, The One & Only didn’t go down quite as smoothly as her others. I found myself both disgusted by and rooting for Shea Rigsby in her unraveling of her feelings for Coach. But, a good story has the ability to make us feel all sorts of feels … discomfort, anxiety, happiness, confusion, fear and all those other complicated human emotions that we strive to avoid. Shea felt every one of these and then some and through Giffin’s writing, I too went through all of these emotions.

Aside from feeling emotionally uncomfortable by Shea ‘s love her for recently widowed mentor, the only other thing that bothered me was that at times it felt as if part of the story line was forced – Shea’s entire relationship with Ryan, for example. I felt the way it started and ended was contrived just to drive the point of Shea’s feelings for Coach home more so than necessary.

Discomfort aside, The One & Only was a great read – not an easy, comfortable read, but a great one. The writing was on par with Giffin’s previous novels and the characters were well developed, for the most part. If you are looking for an emotionally challenging and interesting read this summer, check it The One & Only.