Winner Announced in the Heart of the Matter Giveaway

Cover ImageOne lucky winner has been chosen in the Heart of the Matter Giveaway!

Congratulations to: Esme

for being the lucky winner of Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin!
Please contact me with your name and address by June 7, 2011 to claim your prize.  Shipment is to the US and Canada only.
Thank you to all who participated and left comments!

#31 A Review of Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin + GIVEAWAY

Cover ImageEmily Giffin’s fifth novel, Heart of the Matter, takes yet another look at the complexities of human nature.   Two women who have seemingly nothing in common with each other are going to soon become the source of each other’s heartache.  Tessa has the perfect life.  She is the wife of a pediatric plastic surgeon and a stay at home mother of two.  From the outside, her marriage seems happy and she is content with her husband, Nick.  Valerie is a single mom, lawyer, and has brought herself up from a meager background in her childhood.  Self sufficient yet lonely, she lacks good friends and is very devoted to her work.  Her son, Charlie, is a six-year-old who has a normal life until an accident severely burns his hand and face.  Tessa’s husband Nick gets called into the hospital to take over Charlie’s care and begin the steps to help the child recover from his burns.  Due to the severity of Charlie’s case, Nick tells Valerie that it’s going to be a long recovery period due to multiple surgeries and physical therapy sessions.  As Charlie’s recovery progresses, so does Nick’s interaction with Valerie.  Tessa notices he begins working stranger hours than usual, and that he’s become very withdrawn from their marriage and children.  Valerie finds herself enjoying Nick’s attentions more and more, and begins believing that a future between the two of them could be possible.  Will Tessa find out about Nick’s growing affections for Valerie?  Will something happen between Valerie and Nick, forcing an end to his marriage with Tessa?  Will anyone get a happy ending?

Going into the reading of Heart of the Matter, I had high expectations having enjoyed two other Giffin novels: Something Borrowed and Something Blue.  Alas, I was sorely disappointed.  The book alternates between Tessa’s point of view and a third person narrative of Valerie’s story.  Tessa’s chapters featured the use of “I”, while Valerie’s chapters featured “she”.  It felt very disjointed to read the book in this way; I think the book would have flowed better if each woman told her story through her own point of view.

The plot didn’t seem to work for me.  I’m not sure if it’s because I disagreed with the ending that I feel this way, but the major conflict of the book has a large effect on all the characters, and the ending doesn’t seem to sufficiently fix anything.  I’m all for leaving open-ended questions for the reader to ponder on his/her own, yet this seemed a bit too open for me.  Additionally, the character’s actions didn’t seem to match their personalities.  Here we have two strong, independent women: Tessa was a professor and had a great and stable professional career, and Valerie is a lawyer with a similar successful career.  However, both women begin to submit to Nick, who although altruistic in his professional life as a pediatric burn surgeon, doesn’t warrant this much attention and fawning.  Tessa gives up her job and becomes a stay at home mom, and Valerie begins to devote all her energy to being with him and submitting to his affections.  If Nick’s character was exceptional in both career and personal life I could understand both women losing themselves in their affections for  him, yet I don’t believe this was the case.

Despite these faults, Giffin gives a realistic view into the complexities of married life.  As a newlywed myself, I can say that marriage is something that takes work, and without the effort of both partners it will fail.  Giffin clearly demonstrates what happens when a marriage becomes one-sided.  As a reader you get to be inside Tessa’s head and really go through the ups and downs of her marriage with her.  I think this realistic portrayal is the novel’s saving grace.  While I myself don’t agree with the final outcome of the novel, I understand that each couple’s marriage is their own, and that the outcome is truly up to the specific circumstances within that marriage.  I think that the group of people who would most enjoy this book are those who are married or are in long-term relationships.  I personally enjoy reading about how other couples deal with certain conflicts, as it can be a learning experience for my own relationship.  (This is not to say that the events of this book are in any way shape or form prevalent in my own marriage!!)  So, for a good introspective look into your own interpersonal relations, check this one out!  It will definitely make you think.

3 out of 5 stars

Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin
St. Martin’s Press (2011)
Paperback 400 pages

Giveaway:
One lucky winner will have the opportunity to win a copy of Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin! For your chance to win simply leave a comment in the thread below.  Comments will be accepted through midnight of Wednesday May 25, 2011.  Winner will be picked at random and announced on Thursday May 26, 2011.  Giveaway open to US & Canadian residents only. Good luck!!

My Favorite Ten Books of the Year (Part II)

Here is the second half of my favorite books for the year! (Part I here)

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6.) North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell – Todd and I were bored one night and decided to see what movies/mini-series’ we could watch on instant Netflix.  We watched a BBC version of Gaskell’s North and South and I was enthralled by it!  North and South is the story of John Thornton and Margaret Hale, and the goings-on of the working class people of the small urban city they live in.  Thornton, a mill owner, is trying to keep his mill running amidst strike and union talks.  Margaret Hale, the daughter of a curate in the South of England, is forced to move to Thornton’s home town when her father decides to leave his job as a country curate and become a tutor. Thornton becomes a fixture in Margaret’s daily life, as her father becomes his intellectual tutor.  The two are filled with misconceived notions about the other due to their upbringing and constantly argue and throw slurs at each other.  Somehow through it all they come to realize their true feelings for each other and fall in love.  I have often heard Gaskell compared to Jane Austen; while they do share some similarities, it’s their differences that I find interesting.  Austen satirized the life of the upper-class while Gaskell wrote about the plights of the middle and lower classes.  I truly loved this book because of the realism that engulfed it.  Gaskell was a truly superb writer and I cannot recommend this book enough!!

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7.) A Wolf at the Table by Augusten Burroughs – I was already a huge fan of Augusten by the time this book was published, making this book a must buy for me.  I finally got around to reading it recently and was blown away by it.  Augusten writes memoirs that just grip you.  His life is truly fascinating and with the way he writes, you can’t help but become engrossed in his story.  A Wolf at the Table focuses on his early life living with his mother, father, and sometimes present older brother.  (His older brother is John Elder Robison, author Look Me In The Eye)  His early days were strife with an alcoholic father, one who tried to murder him, possibly on more than one occasion.  This memoir is filled with deeply sad and troubling situations, situations I’m sure have scarred Augusten in his later years.  While this memoir is darker than his other ones, it’s one of his best.  It’s a no holds barred account of a childhood most people would wish to forget. For my full review click here.

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8.) Darcy’s Voyage by Kara Louise – So yet another Pride and Prejudice sequel makes my top ten list.  Shocking. HA.  Anyway, this was one of the most original retellings that I’ve had the pleasure of reading.  Darcy and Elizabeth are thrust into each other company aboard Pemberley’s Promise, a ship headed towards America. Elizabeth is off to see her Aunt and Uncle Gardiner and Darcy is picking up Georgiana.  Elizabeth gets sick aboard ship and is struggling to get better below decks with all the other sick passengers.  Darcy realizes that the only way she can get better is to be taken away from the rest of the sick passengers, and that the only spare bed is in his room.  For propriety’s sake he suggests to Elizabeth that the two marry and that once back in England he will file the necessary paperwork for the two to have an annulment, with none the wiser of their fake marriage.  As you can guess the two fall in love with each other but have no idea how the other feels, since most of their marriage is a show for the other passengers.  Upon the ship’s arrival they are separated not sure if they will ever see each other again.  It is on their return to America that Austen’s original plot begins to come into play.  As I stated earlier this retelling was so unique and I truly enjoyed the change of pace that it offered me.  For my full review click here.

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9.) The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory – I re-read this book every single year.  I absolutely LOVE it.  (I’ve even convinced Todd to begin reading it! See here)  When most people hear the name Boleyn thy think of Anne Boleyn, second wife of Henry VIII.  Most don’t know she had a sister who supposedly bedded the king before her.  The Other Boleyn Girl follows Mary’s story as she finds love, loses love, becomes a mother, is used by her family, and is betrayed by her own sister.  Philippa Gregory is truly a master at writing historical fiction.  Her novels are fascinating fusions of true history, embellished dialogues, and rich characters.  You love to hate her antagonists!  I truly cannot speak highly enough of this novel.  Even if you are not a fan of history you have to give this novel a try.  Gregory writes history but adds the dramatic flare to it to make it fascinating to read.  Definitely check it out and add this to your to-read list.

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10.) Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin – This was a great, quick, fast-paced book that I really enjoyed reading!  Something Borrowed tells the story about Rachel, her best friend Darcy, and Darcy’s fiancée Dex. Rachel and Darcy have been best friends their entire lives, doing almost everything together.  Growing up next-door to each other in Indiana, they have been in a constant competitive friendship all of their twenty-five years together.  Rachel has learned to put Darcy’s needs and wants before her own to curb the competition.  Darcy on the other hand still feels the need to one-up not only Rachel but everyone she knows.  On Rachel’s thirtieth birthday she drinks too much and winds up in bed with Dex.  Rachel begins to feel guilty knowing what she did to her best friend was wrong. The more and more she thinks about it she starts feeling less and less guilty as she realizes that in fact it’s her who is right for Dex and not Darcy.  Rachel begins thinking back to her history with Dex.  The two went to law school together and became good friends.  They never dated because Rachel never thought she was good enough for him.  She introduced him to Darcy and the rest was history.  Rachel receives a phone call from Dex the day after they slept together and begins to get weird vibes from him.  He is not sorry that they slept together, nor does he feel guilty about it.  The two begin secretly seeing each other and realize that they are absolutely perfect for each other.  Rachel must decide if she is willing to risk her friendship with Darcy to be with the one she loves, or give him up and go back to being the friend in Darcy’s shadow.  Truly enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend it as a great beach read!  You can check out my full review here

Well there you have it my readers!  My favorite ten books for the year.  Leave me some comments below and let me know what your favorite books of the year were!

Happy Reading!

#71 A Review of Something Blue by Emily Giffin

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 Something Blue is the second in a two book series written by Emily Giffin.  The first book was Something Borrowed, which I reviewed here.

The beginning of Something Blue begins the same way Something Borrowed ended, just told through the eyes of Darcy.  Darcy has canceled her wedding with Dex, has been sleeping with Marcus, and is pregnant with his baby.  She heads over to Rachel’s apartment to tell her everything that has happened and finds her ex-fiancée Dex hiding in Rachel’s closet, in his boxers.  Completely flabbergasted that her plain jane best friend Rachel is sleeping with her ex, she runs from the apartment yelling back at them to never speak to her again.  Running to Marcus’ apartment she tells him everything and tries to forget about everything.  She tries her hardest to get Marcus to be the man she needs, but he would much rather be a man’s man.  He’s into video games, sloppy dressing, crap restaurants, and just being a complete slacker.  Darcy is realizing that Marcus is not the man she thought he was.  She is regretting leaving Dex and is trying to think of ways to get him back not believing he has any feelings for Rachel.  She convinces Dex to come pick up some things from their former apartment and tries to woo him.  Dex tells Darcy he loves Rachel and that he’ll never love her again.  Darcy can not get over the fact that Dex wants Rachel and becomes truly lost;  her friends want nothing to do with her because she’s pregnant, she’s broken up with Marcus, and she’s in a fight with her parents. 

“For the next few days I cranked up “I Will Survive,” Ace of Base’s “I Saw the Sign,” and other inspiring songs as I racked my brain, trying to come up with a plan, a way to escape the shame of so much rejection.  I needed a fresh start, a change of venue, a new cast of characters.”

It is with this thought that Darcy calls her friend Ethan in London and asks if she can come and stay with him for a while.  Ethan agrees to it but makes her well aware that he does not want to discuss Rachel and Dex with her.  (Ethan is good friends with Rachel as well as Darcy and doesn’t want to be in the middle). Darcy heads over to England and realizes, with the help of Ethan, that she isn’t that great of a person.  Ethan and Darcy have a huge fight and Ethan tells Darcy what a horrible friend she has been, and had the tables been turned Darcy would no doubt have no problem sleeping with Rachel’s fiancée.  Darcy truly digs deep and realizes she needs to change herself before giving birth and wants to prove to Ethan that she can be a good person. 

People say that Something Blue is the better between the two novels.  I’m going to have to disagree and say that I enjoyed Something Borrowed much better.  I can understand why Something Blue is a favorite.  It’s a story about redemption.  You want to see Darcy redeem herself and become a better person.  You want her to find love and happiness.  You want her to become the person she’s always had the ability to be, but chose not too because of her upbringing.

I really enjoyed the larger role that Ethan played in this novel, as he was a great influence on Darcy.  When I started reading Something Blue I was worried about how much I would enjoy the novel, considering it was focused on Darcy.  The journey that Darcy takes is incredibly relatable.  When life gets tough people re-evaluate their lives, their relationships, their friendships, etc.  I began feeling for Darcy: wanting her to succeed, wanted her to find love, to find friendships. As she began succeeding in those sections of her life I began liking her character more, which in turn allowed me to enjoy the novel.  I definitely recommend reading the novel, especially if you’ve read Something Borrowed.

4 out of 5 Stars

#68 A Review of Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin

Cover Image Something Borrowed is (to steal from the book’s jacket) “a phenomenal debut novel” for Emily Giffin.  It is the first in a two book series, the second book being Something Blue.
 
Something Borrowed tells the story about Rachel, her best friend Darcy, and Darcy’s fiancée Dex. (Something Blue is told from Darcy’s perspective, while Something Borrowed is told from Rachel’s)  Rachel and Darcy have been best friends their entire lives, doing almost everything together.  Growing up next-door to each other in Indiana, they have been in a constant competitive friendship all of their twenty-five years together.  Rachel has learned to put Darcy’s needs and wants before her own to curb the competition.  Darcy on the other hand still feels the need to one-up not only Rachel but everyone she knows.  On Rachel’s thirtieth birthday she drinks too much and winds up in bed with Dex.  Rachel begins to feel guilty knowing what she did to her best friend was wrong.
 
The call that was supposed to bring closure only ushered in more uneasiness.  And a tiny little stirring inside me, a stirring that I resolve to squelch. ….as I wait on the subway platform, my mind returns to our kiss in the elevator.  The feel of his hair. And the way he looked sleeping in my bed, half covered by my sheets. Those are the images that I remember the most.”
The more and more she thinks about it she starts feeling less and less guilty as she realizes that in fact it’s her who is right for Dex and not Darcy.  Rachel begins thinking back to her history with Dex.  The two went to law school together and became good friends.  They never dated because Rachel never thought she was good enough for him.  She introduced him to Darcy and the rest was history.  Rachel receives a phone call from Dex the day after they slept together and begins to get weird vibes from him.  He is not sorry that they slept together, nor does he feel guilty about it.  The two begin secretly seeing each other and realize that they are absolutely perfect for each other.  Rachel must decide if she is willing to risk her friendship with Darcy to be with the one she loves, or give him up and go back to being the friend in Darcy’s shadow.
 
I was pleasantly surprised with this book! It had been recommended to me by a few friends all saying that it was a great read.  I definitely did not see myself spending my Saturday morning reading it from cover to cover. Giffin makes the relationship between Rachel and Darcy very relatable.  It’s not uncommon that friends compete with each other – who has a better car, better clothes, better job, etc.  While the conflict of sleeping with your best friends fiancée is not something that all people will be able to relate with, it’s the manner that Giffin tells that story that makes it relatable.  She offers real conflicts, real conversations, real consequences, and real feelings for the reader to engage in.  My one complaint about the book was how long it took Rachel to realize that Darcy was not a good friend to her.  Taking 25 years to figure out that your friendship is basically one-sided? It just struck me as odd that Rachel had never in their friendship ever asserted herself and stuck up for what she wanted.
 
I’m greatly looking forward to reading Something Blue.  I took a strong dislike to Darcy’s character in this novel and am eagerly awaiting her character’s chance at redemption.  She tried to make it seem like she really cared deeply about her friends and wasn’t in competition with them, but she honestly didn’t care about anyone but herself.  I’ve been told that Something Blue is even better than Something Borrowed, which means that Blue has some pretty high expectations to meet.  I’ll definitely be sharing my opinions once I complete the book.   
 
4 out of 5 stars