Friday, October 24, 2014

Double Feature Book Review: Better Late than Never!

By Melissa Amster

I haven't done a double feature review in a while, but wanted to do it again for some books I enjoyed but have been slow to review for some reason. Maybe it was a matter of finding the right ways to say how I felt about the books. In one case, the review notes I had written got erased and I had to start over while trying to remember all the details. (I have learned to make a second copy of my review notes since then!)

In any case, both books are by authors I respect and whose voices have a similar feel to the point where I think they should write a book together. Also, both books have some similar themes running through them.

Both synopses are courtesy of Amazon.

On Grace by Susie Orman Schnall

Meet Grace, who is actually excited about turning 40 in a few months, that is, until her job, marriage, and personal life take a dizzying downhill spiral. Can she recover from the most devastating time in her life, right before it's supposed to be one of the best? Fans of Emily Giffin will love Susie Orman Schnall's debut, which is all about rediscovering yourself--with grace--well after you think it's even possible anymore. On Grace deals with themes such as divorce, infidelity, re-entering the workforce after children, breast cancer, and of course, turning 40. 

It was easy to get into On Grace and stick with the story throughout, as it was engaging and comfortable, like chatting with a close friend. The story and the way it was written reminded me of Here, Home, Hope by Kaira Rouda (also the author of the book sharing this review space). The dialogue felt genuine and flowed nicely. I liked the interactions between Grace and the other characters in the story and felt I could easily visualize them. The only thing that didn't work as well was that I had a hard time feeling sorry for Grace since she seemed to have a lot of money and friends in high places. She was still a sympathetic character overall, but sometimes she had it a little too easy. If I were to cast the role of Grace for a movie (as it would be an awesome chick flick), I'd go with Gwyneth Paltrow or Cameron Diaz. Both women could add their own flair to Grace's personality and I'd have a tough time deciding between them. Then again, one could play her best friend, Cameron (maybe Ms. Diaz to make things less confusing?) and I think they'd portray a convincing friendship.

Thanks to BookSparks PR for the book in exchange for an honest review.

In the Mirror by Kaira Rouda

In the Mirror is the story of Jennifer Benson, a woman who seems to have it all. Diagnosed with cancer, she enters an experimental treatment facility to tackle her disease the same way she tackled her life - head on. But while she's busy fighting for a cure, running her business, planning a party, staying connected with her kids, and trying to keep her sanity, she ignores her own intuition and warnings from others and reignites an old relationship best left behind.

If you knew you might die, what choices would you make? How would it affect your marriage? How would you live each day? And how would you say no to the one who got away?

I think part of the delay in reviewing this is that the subject matter was rather heavy for a mom, such as myself, to think about. So even revisiting it after I finished the story felt daunting. I even wrote a blog post that touched upon certain feelings this story brought up, and that was before I even read it. Having said that, I was impressed with Jenn's need to embrace life while knowing it could quickly come to an end. One of the main focuses of the story is that Jenn is planning a party for herself, but it's not so people can feel sorry for her. It's just one more way for her to embrace life and all the people who have touched hers in some way. Throughout the story, it's interesting to ponder how we see things at the end of our lives and the choices we make when we have the luxury (or doom) of knowing we'll be meeting our maker soon. Kaira's characters are all strong and well-developed and I enjoyed seeing them interact. I would have loved more history between Jenn and her sister though. The only things that didn't work so well for me were Jenn calling her father "daddy" while she's an adult and some parts seeming a bit far-fetched. It was a good story overall and went along at a nice pace, never feeling like it was stuck at all. If I were to cast In the Mirror as a movie (you'd need to bring a box of tissues though), Rachel McAdams would play Jenn.

Thanks to Kaira Rouda for the book in exchange for an honest review.


Janine said...

I haven't read On Grace. But, I've read In The Mirror and it is really good.

Kaira Rouda said...

Thank you so much for reviewing IN THE MIRROR, Melissa! It really means a lot. And thanks for your comment, Janine! I'm glad you enjoyed it!

Great data for Seattle Water Main Repair Service said...

Schnall's writing allows readers to fall right into Grace's world, into her life and her thoughts; Grace is such a relatable character and, while I often become bored with stories of moms and their children in women's fiction (since I don't have an appreciation of that experience), Grace's two boys are so funny that I fell in love with them! Kudos to Susie Orman Schall on her debut novel; this is one you should definitely read for yourself.