July has also been a month of working on my summer reading challenge (see here). For the challenge, I read The After Wife and Serena:
GoodReads Synopsis: L.A. is no place for widows. This is what forty-four-year-old Hannah Bernal quickly discovers after the tragic death of her handsome and loving husband, John. Misery and red-rimmed eyes are little tolerated in the land of the beautiful. But life stumbles on: Hannah’s sweet three-year-old daughter, Ellie, needs to be dropped off at her overpriced preschool, while Hannah herself must get back to work in order to pay the bills on “Casa Sugar,” the charming Spanish-styled bungalow they call home. Fortunately, Hannah has her “Grief Team” for emotional support: earth mother and fanatical animal lover Chloe, who finds a potential blog post in every moment; aspiring actress Aimee, who has her cosmetic surgeon on speed dial; and Jay, Hannah’s TV producing partner, who has a penchant for Mr. Wrong. But after a series of mishaps and bizarre occurrences, one of which finds Hannah in a posh Santa Monica jail cell, her friends start to fear for her sanity. To make matters worse, John left their financial affairs in a disastrous state. And when Hannah is dramatically fired from her latest producing gig, she finds herself in danger of losing her house, her daughter, and her mind. One night, standing in her backyard under a majestic avocado tree, in the throes of grief, Hannah breaks down and asks, “Why?” The answer that comes back—Why not?—begins an astounding journey of discovery and transformation that leads Hannah to her own truly extraordinary life after death.
My Thoughts: I have mixed feelings about this one. On one hand, it was a little weird with all the talking to dead people. But on the other, it was a great story about a woman learning how to live after an unexpected tragedy. It was a really sweet and cute story despite the ghosts.
GoodReads Synopsis: The year is 1929, and newlyweds George and Serena Pemberton travel from Boston to the North Carolina mountains where they plan to create a timber empire. Although George has already lived in the camp long enough to father an illegitimate child, Serena is new to the mountains—but she soon shows herself to be the equal of any man, overseeing crews, hunting rattle-snakes, even saving her husband's life in the wilderness. Together this lord and lady of the woodlands ruthlessly kill or vanquish all who fall out of favor. Yet when Serena learns that she will never bear a child, she sets out to murder the son George fathered without her. Mother and child begin a struggle for their lives, and when Serena suspects George is protecting his illegitimate family, the Pembertons' intense, passionate marriage starts to unravel as the story moves toward its shocking reckoning.
My Thoughts: This one was very slow in the beginning. I read a little over a hundred pages a few weeks ago but put it down. I decided to toss it in my bag when we went to the beach since I'd have a good opportunity to read. And man, was I glad I did! The second two-thirds of this book were SO much better than the first third. The slow burn of the beginning definitely paid off to a not-so-shocking but still page-turning end. I can't wait for the movie to come out!
I also managed to read two guilty pleasure books, both of which I started and finished in a day-- I Didn't Come Here to Make Friends and Slammed.
GoodReads Synopsis: Courtney Robertson joined season 16 of The Bachelor looking for love. A working model and newly single, Courtney fit the casting call: She was young, beautiful, and a natural in front of the cameras. Although she may have been there for all the right reasons, as the season unfolded and sparks began to fly something else was clear: She was not there to make friends. Courtney quickly became one of the biggest villains in Bachelor franchise history. She unapologetically pursued her man, steamrolled her competition, and broke the rules—including partaking in an illicit skinny-dip that sealed her proposal. Now, after a very public breakup with her Bachelor, Ben Flajnik, Courtney opens up and tells her own story—from her first loves to her first moments in the limo. She dishes on life before, during, and after the Bachelor, including Ben's romantic proposal to her on a Swiss mountaintop and the tabloid frenzy that continued after the cameras stopped rolling.For the first time ever, a former Bachelor contestant takes us along on her journey to find love and reveals that “happily ever after” isn't always what it seems. Complete with stories, tips, tricks, and advice from your favorite Bachelor alumni, and filled with all the juicy details Courtney fans and foes alike want to know, I Didn’t Come Here to Make Friends is a must-read for every member of Bachelor nation.
My Thoughts: This is a must-read for any Bachelor(ette) fan! If nothing else, it was a fun behind-the-scenes look at the production of the show. I'm not naive enough to believe everything in this book, but it didn't matter. It does make clear that what we see on TV is not reality (as if we didn't already know this...). Be warned that there are some risqué details that you may or may not want to know. But there's also plenty of dirt that you'll find very interesting!
GoodReads Synopsis: Following the unexpected death of her father, 18-year-old Layken is forced to be the rock for both her mother and younger brother. Outwardly, she appears resilient and tenacious, but inwardly, she's losing hope. Enter Will Cooper: The attractive, 21-year-old new neighbor with an intriguing passion for slam poetry and a unique sense of humor. Within days of their introduction, Will and Layken form an intense emotional connection, leaving Layken with a renewed sense of hope. Not long after an intense, heart-stopping first date, they are slammed to the core when a shocking revelation forces their new relationship to a sudden halt. Daily interactions become impossibly painful as they struggle to find a balance between the feelings that pull them together, and the secret that keeps them apart.
My Thoughts: I know I'm in the minority on this one, but I did not love this story at all. It just all seemed so contrived and unrealistic. The part I did enjoy was watching Layken's relationship with her mother as it evolved throughout the story. But Layken herself was so incredibly immature, which I guess isn't all that unusual for an eighteen year old. But it got very frustrating after a while. I was glad to get to the end of this one.
Overall, it was a pretty good month of reading for me! Only one real dud out of eight isn't too shabby!