Liked It: If You’re Not The One by Jemma Forte

Series: Standalone
Format: eGalley
Release Date: June 1, 2015
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Genre: Women’s Literature

What if you could do it all over again?

Jennifer Wright is pretty sure her husband doesn’t love her anymore. She and Max used to be the perfect couple, but the pressures of work and kids have pulled them in opposite directions. Now , Jen is full of “what if” questions about whether her bland, suburban existence is all she was ever destined for.

When a terrible accident sends Jen into a coma, she is able to see what her life could have been if she had run off to Australia with the handsome, dangerous man she met on vacation, or if she had stayed with her workaholic college boyfriend. Would she ever have loved another child as much as she loves her daughters? Could she have become rich? More than anything, Jen wants to do the right thing for her family. But what she discovers may leave her with even more questions about the choices she made, and no easy answers about what to do next.

Have you ever wondered what it would’ve been like if you pursued a different path? Or perhaps married an ex instead of the one you’re with? This is basically what IF YOU’RE NOT THE ONE by Jemma Forte explored in this novel. 
The heroine, Jennifer Wright, is unhappy with her marriage. Her husband, Max, hasn’t been paying much attention to her, they haven’t had sex in five months, and its that craving for intimacy that had Jennifer desperate and completely unsatisfied. Then one night, just when she thought she’ll finally end her dry spell, she caught her husband flirting with a coworker over the phone. The same woman Jen’s entertained at her house a couple of times. Distraught, Jen ran out of the house and got hit by a car then went on a coma for three weeks during which time she had The Family Man moment. Jen went through “tunnels” and “lived” three different versions of HEA with her exes, one was surfer dude Aiden, then there’s billionaire Tim (a la Mark Zuckerburg), and then Steven, the plumber turned home TV shopping superstar. 
I have to admit, I’ve been in Jennifer’s shoes so it was quite easy for me to step in and see things from her prerogative. IF YOU’RE NOT THE ONE was told in flash-forward style with the alternative HEA’s interspersed in between. I was enjoying Jen’s voice and how unfiltered she was describing her life and it’s quite obvious she lived before settling down with Max. 
I don’t know where it started feeling monotonous for me though. I just started noticing how Jen is always irritated, whether it’s with her friend borrowing her dress, or how her current beau is behaving, it’s like she’s constantly PMS-ing. And this dissatisfaction extended to the alternative HEA’s, except for one but even that felt more like “settling” than authentically joyous. I’m usually left with feel-good vibes after reading women’s fiction, but IF YOU’RE THE ONE left me feeling sad and even irritated. Jennifer rubbed off on me! 
Now I hope this gets a companion novel or something because the novel feels incomplete. After a miraculous recovery from her accident, Jen’s marriage is still in shambles and it didn’t remedy the situation with Max. It did the opposite and it looks like Jen is about to make one of her alternative HEA come true. Now women’s lit is notorious for leaving its readers on a lurch, like the writers usually leaves it to us to make up our own ending. This time around I wish we had more closure because towards the end, IF YOU’RE THE ONE took a slight turn towards magic realism territory and I’d like to know where that road ends.

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Loved It: The Canterbury Sistersby Kim Wright

Series: Standalone
Format: eGalley
Release Date: May 19, 2015
Publisher: Gallery Books
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Genre: Literary Fiction | Women’s Lit

BLURB:
Che Milan’s life is falling apart. Not only has her longtime lover abruptly dumped her, but her eccentric, demanding mother has recently died. When an urn of ashes arrives, along with a note reminding Che of a half-forgotten promise to take her mother to Canterbury, Che finds herself reluctantly undertaking a pilgrimage.

Within days she joins a group of women who are walking the sixty miles from London to the shrine of Becket in Canterbury Cathedral, reputed to be the site of miracles. In the best Chaucer tradition, the women swap stories as they walk, each vying to see who can best describe true love. Che, who is a perfectionist and workaholic, loses her cell phone at the first stop and is forced to slow down and really notice the world around her, perhaps for the first time in years.

Through her adventures along the trail, Che finds herself opening up to new possibilities in life and discovers that the miracles of Canterbury can take surprising forms.

QUOTABLE QUOTES:
I have so much trouble with peace. It scares me. It feels too much like death.

Life will always be a mystery. Whatever you think you own can be taken from you in an instant and-even more confounding-all the things you once thought were lost can come rushing back.

Sigh! Is it me or does anybody else get feel-good vibes after reading a solid women’s lit novel? THE CANTERBURY SISTERS by Kim Wright sure left me feeling satisfied the same way one might feel after consuming their favorite treat (mine would be flaky, sugary, carby, pastries). I connected with the novel, and the women in the story, in different ways and varying degrees. The best way I can describe THE CANTERBURY SISTERS is every woman’s story, and I’m sure that should you decide to read this, that you will find yourselves, or pieces of yourselves, embedded in the women in this novel.
The story starts with Che Millan, a woman in her late 40’s, successful, independent, stable. The anti-thesis of her recently departed mother, Diana, who found God again towards the end of her life. It’s this almost fanatic reconciliation with her religion that had Diana pressing her daughter to bring her ashes to Canterbury Cathedral and be laid to rest in a purportedly, miraculous church. Che was hesitant at first, then she got a Dear Jane letter from her boyfriend of several years, stating that he met someone new. This was what unraveled Che and thus started her pilgrimage to Canterbury. When Che got there, she found herself in the company of women who are looking for some sort of miracle to happen in their lives as they go in this once in a lifetime trip to Chaucer’s Canterbury.
Following the tradition of the original pilgrims, the women were asked to tell a story, preferably theirs, as they walk the 60 mile trek going to the Cathedral. I loved all the women’s stories; they were fun, honest, revealing, and a lesson in itself. Jeanne is a widow whose husband died of a drug deal gone wrong in South America. Her daughter, Becca, is a senior in high school, naïve and innocent to the joys and sorrows of love but very much excited to know its ebbs and tides. Angelique is a reality housewife who’s live unraveled in front of national television because of her husband’s shenanigans.
Then there’s Claire, very polished, super MILF, very confident, and very insecure of her second husband’s ex-wife who apparently was a dynamite in bed. This led her marriage to crumble and overcompensating in some ways. Steffi, who told her story in third person, and though her story might feel “common” and perceived as shallow (eating disorder), it’s one of the cruelest and most disturbing of the tales for me.
A few shared fairy tales with the intent of being metaphorical. My favorite was Silvia’s. She met her perfect mate early on, lived the ideal life, built the white-picket-fenced dream. Then it was shattered when her husband fell for another woman and Silvia was left to pick up the pieces of their broken life. Years later, Silvia found a new man, having a second shot at love. Then Sivlia’s ex-husband’s current wife contracted Alzheimer’s then Silvia’s current husband was diagnosed with it too. Later on, Silvia’s current husband got it too and they ended up living together in a pseudo-hospice/home.
What held me back in giving THE CANTERBURY SISTERS 5 cauldrons is Che skipping telling her tale. Sure, we know her story because she’s narrating the novel. I guess I was looking for some sort of confession, or a declaration of sorts, share with the group the real reason why she went on this pilgrimage and the kind of miracle or absolution she was after.
I had a great time with THE CANTERBURY SISTERS. Kwright wrote a story that’s for women, by a woman, if that makes sense. All the tales shared were far from The Dream, it’s nothing like HEA, but its powerful and packed quite the punch. I found myself relishing the tales, imbibing the words, and internalizing these women’s reflections because it really resonated with me. I don’t know why I stopped reading women’s fiction, after THE CANTERBURY SISTERS, I’m sure I’ll be reading more of the genre moving forward.
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It’s that time of the week again where we feed our Hungry Hearts & Thirsty Thursday (hosted by Unconventional Book Views)!

Here’s my entry. Cheers!


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Suped Up: Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

Series: Stand-alone
Format: eGalley
Release Date: May 12, 2015
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Genre: Literary Fiction | Women’s Lit

HER PERFECT LIFE
IS A PERFECT LIE.

As a teenager at the prestigious Bradley School, Ani FaNelli endured a shocking, public humiliation that left her desperate to reinvent herself. Now, with a glamorous job, expensive wardrobe, and handsome blue blood fiancé, she’s this close to living the perfect life she’s worked so hard to achieve.

But Ani has a secret.

There’s something else buried in her past that still haunts her, something private and painful that threatens to bubble to the surface and destroy everything.

With a singular voice and twists you won’t see coming, Luckiest Girl Alive explores the unbearable pressure that so many women feel to “have it all” and introduces a heroine whose sharp edges and cutthroat ambition have been protecting a scandalous truth, and a heart that’s bigger than it first appears.

The question remains: will breaking her silence destroy all that she has worked for—or, will it at long last, set Ani free?

I didn’t plan on reading LUCKIEST GIRL ALIVE by Jessica Knoll… until I saw Reese Witherspoon’s 15sec video on Instagram raving about the book. Know that I’m not following Ms. Witherspoon in any way, I have no idea what her taste in books are, I don’t know if we have books in common. BUT if she loved Gone Girl hard enough to turn it into a movie, I think I can trust her that much to pick up JKnoll’s first novel. 
I read JKnoll’s Fifty-One Shades of Blonde (Cosmo Red-Hot Read) about 3 years ago. Didn’t like it, not because it was bad, it was incomplete and felt like a fanfic of a fanfic. It was so forgettable her name didn’t even ring a bell until I started drafting this post and realized she’s on my Rolodex already. 
Suffice to say she’s been redeemed. Not that she needs any validation from me, after this book hits the shelves this lady won’t have time for little blogs like Talk Supe. I say this though because I’m now an official Jessica Knoll fan. From this point onwards, I will be reading each book she releases, her Red-Hot story forgotten, and won’t be counted against her any longer as far as I’m concerned.
LUCKIEST GIRL ALIVE is everything the advance reviews are gushing about. From the first chapter, TifAni FaNelli has captured my cold heart and dark imagination. Her bitter lamentations, feigned sincerity, and brutally honest observations, tempered with unexpected compassion for the unfortunate, and meaningful friendships with delinquents had me rubbing my hands in glee. I know this girl will turn my world upside down for a day (or more) because I’m sure she has a huge story to tell. One can’t be this polarizing if one didn’t go through hell at some point, and I was more than happy to toe that line with her as she tells us her life’s account. I do love my twisted tales.
I didn’t love Ani in any way by the end of LUCKIEST GIRL ALIVE, which is such a snarky title by the way, nor did I hate her either. Ani is vainglorious and easy to hate, oddly enough its her sharp edges that made LUCKIEST GIRL ALIVE such a compelling novel to read. See Ani was one of those girls who had a certain desperation about them that turned into extreme insecurity. She was desperate to be one of the cool kids so she’d do ANYTHING and EVERYTHING to be one of them. She’ll sell her soul to the devil if she has to as long as she has the approval of the popular clique.
And it’s this lack of judgment, this failing of wisdom on her part, and skewed priorities that made it hard to empathize with her. In essence, Ani chose to put herself in a vulnerable position so she has only herself to blame for her misfortune. That said, Ani doesn’t want our sympathies either. She never played the victim and instead used the incidents in her past to fuel her ambition and reinvention. But even after a decade, Bradley is still in her mind and no amount of success, money, arm candy, will be enough for Ani to let go of that part of her life. As you can tell, this girl has serious issues and is only minutes away from being featured in Dateline or Dr. Phil.
Despite my impressions about Ani, LUCKIEST GIRL ALIVE had me at its grips until the last word was read. JKnoll interspersed Ani’s past with her present and when it all came to a head, the revelation just hit me in waves. I felt strong contrasting emotions at rapid fire rate and I think I got whiplash from the intensity. It stopped being about the characters and what you feel for them, and became the story as a whole, and everyone’s contribution to it. The big picture is colored with dark and bold tones, heavy brush strokes, nightmarish, and disturbing. Everyone’s a hero. Everyone’s the villain. Nobody won. 
LUCKIEST GIRL ALIVE is a very thought and emotionally provoking story. The narrative is unfiltered, acerbic, gritty, and jarring in its honesty. It will suck you in, position you in the story as if you’re part of the cast. Rob you of words, overwhelm you with emotions, the twisted tale lingering long after you’ve read it. Heck, you might even feel compelled to reread it right away. It’s THAT well-written. Let me warn you though, Ani is very abrasive, if you read a sample you’ll know what I’m talking about. But don’t be deterred, keep on reading and I promise you, this mind bender will be one of the best novels you’ll read this year, if not ever.

Unrated: The Glittering World by Robert Levy

Series: Stand-alone
Format: Hardcover
Release Date: February 10, 2015
Publisher: Gallery Books
Source: Publisher
Genre: Literary Fiction | Fantasy | Mystery

In the tradition of Neil Gaiman (The Ocean at the End of the Lane), Scott Smith (The Ruins), and Jason Mott (The Returned), award-winning playwright Robert Levy spins a dark tale of alienation and belonging, the familiar and the surreal, family secrets and the search for truth in his debut supernatural thriller.

When up-and-coming chef Michael “Blue” Whitley returns with three friends to the remote Canadian community of his birth, it appears to be the perfect getaway from New York. He soon discovers, however, that everything he thought he knew about himself is a carefully orchestrated lie. Though he had no recollection of the event, as a young boy Blue and another child went missing for weeks in the idyllic, mysterious woods of Starling Cove. Soon thereafter, his mother suddenly fled with him to America, their homeland left behind.

But then Blue begins to remember. And once the shocking truth starts bleeding back into his life, his closest friends—Elisa, his former partner in crime; her stalwart husband, Jason; and Gabe, Blue’s young and admiring co-worker—must unravel the secrets of Starling Cove and the artists’ colony it once harbored. All four will face their troubled pasts, their most private demons, and a mysterious race of beings that inhabits the land, spoken of by the locals only as the Other Kind…


Before I start with my thoughts on this book, you should know that the dust cover for Robert Levy’s THE GLITTERING WORLD is a very, very pretty in real life. It literally glitters and it’s guaranteed to make any bookshelf extra gorgeous.

On to the story! 

I don’t know what I just read. And I’m not trying to be cute or exercising rhetoric here. I seriously don’t know WTflyingF I read. It took me a while to finish THE GLITTERING WORLD because after the first 100 pages, the plot felt laborious for me. Like I can’t figure it out so I tried to look at it from a genre angle. Is this magic realism, sci-fi, paranormal? None of these fit, only the broad sweeps of lit-fiction/mystery fits. The short of it is, RLevy’s debut novel is a changeling story. Now before you get all excited, forget everything you know about changelings, the fae, and other legends regarding this myth because RLevy totally turned things upside down. By the end of THE GLITTERING WORLD, it felt more like an alien abduction than a folk tale to me.

The novel was divided into 4 parts as each of the lead characters took turns in telling the tale. Years ago, Blue was went missing in the woods only to come back as, what most people in his town suspect, is a changeling. After much tension and family drama, Blue moved and it was only when his grandma died and left the house to him that he returned to Nova Scotia. It wasn’t long before Blue’s bretheren started calling to him and he went missing. As this renewed search for the elusive Blue ensues, his friends, Elisa, Jason, and Gabe, took turns in relating the tale to us. But will they find Blue this time around and if so, is he the Blue they know and love, or is it going to be something else?

THE GLITTERING WORLD is disturbing, very, very strange, and definitely unlike anything I’ve ever read. I can’t tell you what it’s about apart from what the story is, I can tell you though why  this novel didn’t necessarily work for me: it was so impersonal. You have four people telling you the tale, complete with their own thoughts, history, and relationship with Blue, and yet it felt so detached. As if RLevy purposely and actively prevented me, the reader, to understand the human side of the novel and form any attachment to Blue & Co. Also the ending doesn’t have closure. Like all of that adventure and close encounters with the fae folk for nothing? 

Which is why THE GLITTERING WORLD will remain unrated by me for a while. It’s one of those books that is written well in terms of technique but lacked in the suspending disbelief. I just don’t know if I’m an idiot or if RLevy focused too much on stylistics and not enough time forming the plot wherein average readers like myself can consider it believable or even entertaining. So please, if you’ve read this and totally loved it, I’d appreciate an email so we can powwow in private. 

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#FBF: The Paris WIfe by Paula McLain

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
Ballantine Books | February 22, 2011 
Women’s Fiction | Historical

I read THE PARIS WIFE when it was newly released and I remember feeling very infuriated afterwards. Aside from the wonderful cast of literary characters starting with Ernest Hemingway and the infamous Fitzgeralds, this book was a sort of semi-biographical retelling of Ernest and his then wife, Hadley Richardson, when they moved to Paris during the Jazz age. THE PARIS WIFE is a story of love, marriage loyalty, friendship, betrayal, and ambition, and all these were doled out in the superlative. So, I naturally got very invested in the story and finished the book with high emotions, mostly in varying shades of anger. 
I’m not familiar with Ernest Hemingway’s life story aside from his reputation of being a broken soul and an alcoholic. In retrospect, I think his biography would be a great inspiration for angst-ridden books that a lot of people love to read these days. Anyway, that unfamiliarity is what attracted me to read THE PARIS WIFE. I love fictional biographies because I find outright history boring. 
Hadley Richardson. How I loved, pitied, and admired thee. It was with thick rose colored glasses that she married and ran off with Hemingway to Paris. Lived the life of poverty, listened patiently to Ernest’s book ideas and the like, doing her darnest to make things work, as Ernest fought off writer’s block, gallivanted Paris with the “popular kids”, and womanized. Hadley is frickin loyal to a fault, and this part was what infuritated me. She is clearly, someone you want on your side when things are hard, the ideal wife who will be there through thick and thin. A martyr, for sure! Frustrating yet admirable IMO. One’s either stupidly in-love or has a strong sense of skewed honor to stand by a man who treats you like shit! Meanwhile Ernest is just plain stupid, disrespectful, and selfish. 
To give you a clue, how about your husband/boyfriend/partner introduce his/her new lover to you while you’re still married and expects you to entertain him/her? And their so-called friends? None of them were loyal to Hadley, the poor girl was left to handle her own grief by herself, and look for a salve to mend her broken heart. Speaking of friends, the Fitzgeralds here were portrayed like the Buchanans in The Great Gatsby, annoying, frivolous, and fake, in case you’re curious. 
As you can see, the years haven’t dulled my feelings towards THE PARIS WIFE. The blurb said “evocative” and that’s a dire understatement IMO because it was clearly more than that. As for the ending, I can’t say I’m fully satisfied with it. Obviously I went all Lorena Bobbit for a bit, and wanted to cut of Ernest Hemingway’s penis, and set his mistress on fire. In summary, Ernest was sorry for his actions and deeply regretted how he handled the situation. Hadley, for her part, remained one of Ernest’s friend and confidante til the end. 

#FBF: The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice

The Vampire Lestat
Vampire Chronicles 2
Anne Rice
Knopf
Literary Fiction | Sci-Fi
September 12, 1985
It’s been a while since I did my #FBF: Flash Book Fridays, I did say that this was a sporadic meme so that’s my excuse for slacking off. Anyway obviously this edition is inspired by the release of Prince Lestat, the 11th novel of Anne Rice’s cult classic series, Vampire Chronicles and I just have to pay homage to the first Lestat novel released almost 30 years ago.
Anne Rice is my gateway drug when it comes to books similar to marijuana and illegal substances. She was the first person who introduced me to the world of erotica before it became what it is now, gave me a taste of paranormal romance way before the genre was coined, popped my M/M, M/F/M, and various human-otherworldly couplings cherry, made me fantasize about walking down Garden District and The French Quarter as some sort of Supe (preferably her kind of vampire or witch), and lastly I owe my love for the supernatural to this literary icon. In short, I have a mild obsession with Anne Rice and her books. Don’t judge.
THE VAMPIRE LESTAT, or Lestat de Lioncourt to be exact, was my first concept and encounter with an anti-hero and he became the gold standard and my benchmark moving forward.  For those of the younger set, he is my Niklaus Mikaelson (The Originals), and he was an addiction that took years and years to shake off. He is a meddling, conceited, selfish, self-important mofo that one can’t help but love. I never really understood his concept of love and loyalty but he is those things, he does have redeeming qualities but “arrogant prick” is the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Lestat and I mean that in the fondest way. 
A little backstory for those of you who aren’t so familiar with his tale and you can forget associating my Lestat with Tom Cruise (another self important prick and I mean that in a disparaging way). Anyway Lestat is an aristocrat who got turned into a vampire sometime in 18th century France. In ARice’s myth, your strength as a vampire depends on your maker. Lucky for us Lestat’s maker is one of the ancients making him a formidable vampire even if he’s just a fledgling. Lestat turned his mother, Gabrielle, into a vampire too to prevent her from dying and became his companion for years. It was after meeting Armand that Lestat got curious about their origins and his constant search finally led him to the race’s progenators, Akasha and Enkil (The Queen of the Damned, again forget the movie because Aaliya [RIP] as Akasha was a travesty). Lestat managed to waken the royals from their stupor, managing so semi-seduce Akasha allowing him to feed off of her which made Lestat even more powerful and enabled him to walk during the day without self-combusting. ARice’s vampire myth follows more or less the night walker archetype.

What appealed to me most about THE VAMPIRE LESTAT is it’s provocativeness and almost androgynous approach to romance. It was more erotic than than sexual with beauty as the focal point. The vamps are obsessed with beauty whether it’s physical, talent-based, or one’s profoundness and genius or capacity for a certain emotion. They handpick their progeny and their selection process is usually based on the qualities I mentioned. However these vampires are fickle and sometimes quick to anger and because their lives span millenia they have the tendency to harbor grudges and the like.

Lestat is the badboy of their lot, he challenges the unspoken rules like discretion by outing their kind, becoming a rockstar and writing songs about vampires and what’s it like to be one. He hid in plain sight which angered a lot of vampires making him a target. But as Lestat is Lestat, he managed to turn it around and convince the ancients not to kill him. And it’s Lestat’s propensity to annoy and provoke anybody, whether it’s the reader or his cast mate, that endeared him to me and he remains and will always be one of my most favorite fictional characters of all time.

And I think it’s time I catch up and see what he’s been up to, I did hear Prince Lestat is awesome!