Short & Sweet Sundays: Misfortune Cookie by Michele Gorman

In honor of Sunday – a day I reserve for reading and lollygagging – I bring you a short and sweet book review! 

The gist (from the publisher): Would you move 6,000 miles to be with the love of your life? Hannah did. Unfortunately her plan isn’t going terribly well. What was supposed to be a move to Hong Kong to start a wonderful new life with Sam is turning into a move to Hong Kong to spend occasional weekends with Sam, when he can get away from an unanticipated work assignment on the opposite side of the South China Sea. Still, she’s optimistic, if woefully unprepared for the intricacies of Hong Kong. Stumbling through the alien city, which she loves, she starts to build a life for herself. Things definitely look up when she finds a great boss to work for, and her best friend Stacy moves to the city too. But alarm bells ring as Sam seems to be getting a bit too cozy with his boss. And when things start going wrong at work, Hannah can’t help but wonder if she’s made the biggest mistake of her life.

Why it’s unique: It’s set in Hong Kong! Though I have zero interest in traveling to a Asia, it’s fun partaking in Hannah’s many culture-shock experiences. Come to think of it, setting a story in a foreign land can be a bit of a risk. If readers aren’t traveling vicariously through the author’s prose, they’re going to feel let down. Well, Michele certainly didn’t fall short in this department! Here’s a little taste of her whimsical descriptions of Hong Kong’s exotic cityscape:

Hundreds of skyscrapers pulse and glow in the lilac twilight, their stairwell lights running up them like excavated dinosaurs’ spines. The dark pool of the harbor beyond the building reflects back at us, deceptively calm. And Kowloon blankets the far shore, stretching into the distance. I don’t’ think I’ll ever get used to these views, or take them for granted. I hope not.

What surprised me: Despite the fact that Hannah moved across oceans to follow a man, the book has some surprising girl power moments. Just when I thought I made up my mind about the flighty protagonist, she’d totally redeem herself by doing something ballsy. I won’t give too much away, but I will say that I was very pleased with her decisions. You go girl!

What irked me:  Hannah is frustrating. She’s a little too ditzy in a wide-eyed, bumbling Bridget Jones kind of way. She’s the kind of girl who agonizes incessantly about her boyfriend when she should be enjoying a night out with the girls. I was especially put off when she left her BFF all alone on her first night in Hong Kong so she could squeeze in another date with her boyfriend. Lame!

Will I read another book by this author? Well after that puzzling ending, I kind of have to! Seems like Hannah’s journey of self-discovery has only begun – and I can’t wait to see where she’ll end up next! The author sure knows how to leave her readers guessing.

This book is best paired with: A silky kimono robe and a frilly pink cosmo.

Overall: This is a fun, fast read that is sure to entertain fans of Sophie Kinsella (Shopaholic series) and Helen Fielding (Bridget Jone’s Diary). Hannah’s hilarious inner dialogue and many awkward moments had me giggling throughout the book. If you’re looking for something light and amusing, check this one out.

Short & Sweet Sundays: Monarch Beach by Anita Hughes

In honor of Sunday – a day I reserve for reading and lollygagging – I bring you a short and sweet book review! 

The gist: Amanda Blick leads a charmed life. She’s got a gorgeous French chef husband, a perfect little house in a high-class neighborhood, and a cute little rosy- cheeked boy.  But underneath the glossy surface, trouble is a’ brewing. Her husband seems to be working more late nights at the restaurant, and the female kitchen help can’t seem to look her in the eyes. Hmm….something smells fishy around here and I don’t’ think it’s the catch of the day!

It all comes to a head when she finds her husband and his sous chef in a rather…shall we say compromising position in the kitchen. Rather than sticking around to let him weasel his way back into her heart, she takes her rich mom up on her offer to spend the summer at the deliciously decadent St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort.

Distraught over her husband’s betrayal, not even the plentiful umbrella drinks and cute cabana boys can put her mind at ease. That is until she bumps into Edward Jonas, a restaurateur with kind eyes and a sexy smile. Although her instincts tell her to steer clear of handsome culinary artists, there’s something about this low key silver fox that sets her heart aflutter! Is it wise to take a chance on another man before signing the divorce papers? Why does she still lust after her philandering husband? And most importantly – why must she continue to put her life on hold in the name of love?  

Why I chose this book: It’s summertime, so what could be better than soaking up the rays on my hot-pink beach towel with a romantic beach read?  I really enjoyed living vicariously in the St. Regis presidential suite, drinking the fruity cocktails, digging my toes in the soft sand, and riding along the Pacific Coast Highway in a sweet Bentley!

What I liked most: The ending. I was preparing myself for a predictable conclusion, but the author threw a major curve ball. Amanda’s got another big journey ahead of her – and I’m hoping there’s going to be a sequel!

Why it’s unique:  Come to think of it, most of the books I read don’t involve obscenely rich protagonists. Mostly, they’re career girls, struggling journalists and amateur sleuths.  So this book was kind of a departure from the norm.  Some may say that it’s too vapid and decadent, but I say lighten up people!  I enjoyed reading about Amanda’s fairytale life with two glamorous parents in a posh San Francisco mansion. I certainly am not a “lifestyle of the rich and famous” kind of girl, but I do think it’s amusing to read about that world.  

What irked me: I needed more action. It seemed that fine dining and cocktail hours dominated Amanda’s summertime activities. Don’t get me wrong, I love reading about cozy restaurant scenes, but she needed to get out and have some fun! I want to immerse myself in the icy Pacific Ocean, ride with the dolphins, and zip over the waves in a jet ski! It’s a fabulous beach resort, so why not take advantage of all the amenities?  

This book is best paired with: A Bob Marley playlist, a pina colada and a comfy deck chair.

Would I read another book by this author? Most definitely! She certainly has a knack for character development and sharp dialogue.

If you like this book, you’ll also enjoy titles by: Jane Green, Kristin Hannah, Susan Mallory and Beatriz Williams.

My Book Boyfriend (No. 6) Edward Jonas from Monarch Beach

Nothing says summer like a day at the beach (or Texas watering hole) with a cooler full of Shiner and a fun and fluffy romance novel!  I couldn’t have picked a better book than Monarch Beach to get me in the mood for some serious sun-worshipping fun!

 The tranquil Pacific coast, the Bentley car service, the sexy beachside restaurateur – everything about this book took me away to the deliciously decadent St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort. But not everything is champagne and roses for the obscenely affluent Amanda Blick. Her soujurn at the St. Regis is more of a recovery effort than a blissful summer vacay. After finding her French husband doing the do with his sous chef, she decides to spend her summer licking her wounds at one of Southern California’s most posh beach resorts.

Distraught over her husband’s betrayal, not even the plentiful umbrella drinks and cute cabana boys can put her mind at ease. That is until she bumps into Edward Jonas, a silver fox who just so happens to own a beachside restaurant. What is it with this woman and foodies? I’ve got to hand it to her, a man who knows his way in a kitchen is worth keeping! If my husband wasn’t a culinary artist, I’d probably be living off of Spaghettios and Vienna sausages.

But I digress, here is my Book Boyfriend: Edward Jonas. This is a fun little meme created by Missie over at the Unread Reader. Hop on over to her blog to see what it’s all about.

Description: He may be a little over a decade older than our 30-something protagonist, but he’s got it going on with his crinkly eyes, steel-gray hair and thick jaw. Plus he wears Tommy Bahama shirts. How cute is that?!?

Since he’s super sexy and a little on the older side, how could I not picture George Clooney? Boy did it rev my engine when I pictured Hollywood’s favorite silver fox in this steamy scene:

I sat up naked, and unwrapped the box. Inside was a black velvet jewelry box. I snapped it open.

“Edward!” Inside the box were the monarch butterfly earrings we had seen at the hotel gift shop.

“Remember when we met, at the monarch butterfly release?”

Of course. You gave me nutrition tips,” I laughed.

“And Max came up and asked you to make a wish?”

“Yes,” I said, and nodded.

“I made a wish, too: that I would get to know you better.”

“Oh,” I said.

“And that wish is starting to come true.” He kissed me slowly, on the lips.”

Oh swoon! How I love post-coital bliss, especially when sparkly jewelry is involved! What do you think? Is George Clooney a good match? Who’s your book boyfriend?

True Love Way by Nancy Scrofano

People who know me well often poke fun at my love for old-school TV shows.  It’s always very awkward at social gatherings when people start talking about shows like Glee or Dancing with the Stars. When the conversation turns to me, I just give them a blank stare and say, “How about that Jessica Fletcher? Did you see her solve the case of the poisoned clam chowder?”  Thanks to my nifty DVR (best invention next to the Ford Taurus!) I no longer have to join the masses in TV Land.  Give me a recycled episode of Murder She Wrote over a dumpy reality show any day! I still don’t know who the Kardashians are and what they’re all about – and I intend to keep it that way!

But I digress…the reason for this rant is that Marlo in True Love Way is a girl after my own heart.  She may be young and hip, but she spends her free time watching I Love Lucy and Shirley Temple movies with her spunky great aunt. She even dyed her hair red to channel her inner Lucile Ball! This girl just loves, loves, loves all things retro. One thing she doesn’t love, however, is change. Who can blame her? Change is scary, especially for those of us who live in our own little nostalgic worlds.

After her ex-boyfriend, Josh, summons her back to Napa, her cushy little life goes into a tailspin.  Her best friend, Nick, isn’t all to gung-ho about her rushing back to the jerk who kicked her to the curb and scurried off to Paris. But despite Nick’s warnings, she’s desperate to get some answers…and possibly rekindle the flame.

Why did he cut and run right when their romance was blossoming? And why did he go 12 long years without calling or writing?  To quote the great Ricky Ricardo, he’s got some splaining to do!

Unwilling to let Marlo roadtrip it alone in her rickety vintage car, Nick decides to tag along. claiming that he needs to visit his sister Savannah. What could be more fun than an impromptu reunion with a bunch of old high school chums in California’s gorgeous wine country? Oh, you’d be surprised.

As soon as they set foot in Napa, things get screwy real fast. Savannah (Marlo’s other BFF) gets weird when Josh enters the picture. They used to be so close back in high school, especially when Marlo helped her raise her child right after graduation. But now it seems as though she’s holding something back…something that could potentially destroy their friendship.

Things go from bad to worse when Josh goes above and beyond to win Marlo’s heart. From balloon rides to romantic picnics to candlelit dinners, he’s pulling out all the stops to get her back. According to the butterflies in her stomach, the chemistry is alive and well. But a niggling feeling in her gut tells her to back off.

And just to make life even more complicated, Nick seems to have a special interest in the leggy, French girl who works behind the counter at his sister’s bakery. Why does he always seem to distract himself with uninteresting women with big boobs and long legs? And more importantly – why do his meaningless flings get under Marlo’s skin?

I’ll stop right here before I give anything away! You’ll have to read the book to find out what’s going on with these crazy kids. Overall, this book is a fun little beach read that will take you on a rollercoaster ride of emotional turmoil. The romance is entertaining, but what really makes the book special is Marlo. Considering our society’s obsession with all things digital, it’s refreshing to come across a character who lives in her own whimsical world of retro pop culture.

My only hangup is that the author didn’t take advantage of Napa’s gorgeous setting. I’ve never been there, but I would love to know what it’s like to soak in the breathtaking hills and valleys, to smell the aroma of vino at a classy winery, to explore a wine cellar lined with oak barrels. Although she touched on some of Napa’s scenic splendor, I would have liked more atmosphere and little less dialogue.

Aside from that minor gripe, True Love Way is definitely worth reading. Nancy Scrofano certainly has some writing chops, and I’m interested to see what she’ll come up with next!  Fans of Emily Giffin and Jane Green are sure to enjoy this charming story about a quirky woman reaching a crossroads in life.

My Book Boyfriend (#5) Julian Laurence from Overseas

It’s been a tough month, so I’m going to cheer myself up with a fun little Book Boyfriend blurb. Pretty boys do have a way of perking me right up! That’s why I love reading romance novels during my blue spells. It’s hard to stay bummed when I’m picturing my celebrity crush du jour in the throws of passion.

For my fifth installment of the My Book Boyfriend meme, I bring you Julian Laurence from Overseas.

Description:  Julian is an extremely sexy, yet oddly old-fashioned British billionaire. With his tall, lean physique, broad shoulders, dark golden hair and soulful eyes, he brings women to their knees with just a twitch of a smile. Although he’s richer than Donald Trump, he has no interest in flashy cars or private jets. His passions are classical music, his grand piano, leather-bound books, and of course, his lady love Kate Wilson.

When Julian first entered the scene, I immediately thought of (*sigh*) the extremely hot, aristocratic Jude Law. Isn’t he a perfect fit?

Here are some quotes to send your hearts a flutter:

“Darling, when I tell you I love you, it means this: That I am your servant. That these two hands” – he held them up before me and then cupped my face – “labor for you alone. That you have a demand on me, an eternal one, which has everything to do with the incalculable favor, the immeasurable honor, you granted me last night, in taking me into your heart and your bed.”

“Sweetheart, I love you. Of course I do. I love every priceless inch of you. I love you idolatrously, for a thousand reasons, and I shall never stop. Hush,” he said, laying his finger on my lips again, “you don’t need to say anything. I’m a patient man. Just be easy. Know that it’s there, that you needn’t doubt me on this, at least.”

“Well, as they say,” he said, nibbling at my earlobe, slipping down to kiss the vale behind it, “faint heart never won fair lady.”

I lifted my hand to the back of his head. “I’m going…to find out.”

“Yes, I expect you shall. What fragrant skin you have, darling; how convenient that the woman one loves should turn out to be so perfectly…” He paused to kiss the curve of my jaw.

Oh swoon! Time for a Jude Law fix. I think I’m going to bump “The Holiday” up to the top of my Netflix queue.

My Book Boyfriend is a weekly meme created by Missie over at the Unread Reader that allows giggly book bloggers such as myself to match their literary crushes with a hot celebrities.

“Calamity Jayne” by Kathleen Bacus

Throw in two parts Nancy Drew, one part Lucille Ball, add a dash of Stephanie Plum, shake it all up and you’ve got a one-of-a-kind amateur sleuth with a penchant for junk food and hot-pink snakeskin cowgirl boots. Tressa Jayne Turner (who begrudgingly answers to “Calamity Jayne”) is lovingly known around her small Midwestern town for being a magnet to mischief and mayhem.

Calamity is fed up with dumb-blonde jokes and sets forth on a mission to give her nickname an overhaul by replacing “Calamity” with “Ace Reporter Extraordinaire.”

The fair-haired protagonist haphazardly finds herself in the middle of a high-profile mystery when she discovers the corpse of an accused drug smuggling lawyer in her trunk. When the corpse disappears, she (once again) becomes the laughing stock of the town. Fueled with frustration and anger, Calamity sets out to solve the crime and to finally earn some much deserved R-E-S-P-E-C-T. What better way to make a name for herself than by single-handedly solving a mystery and writing about it as an ace-cub reporter for The Gazette?

Bacus’s laugh-out-loud mystery/romance/comedy novel, complete with heart-pounding romantic encounters and small-town charm, is a cozy read filled with eccentric characters and quick-witted dialogue. My only qualm about this cozy read is the lackluster mystery plot. Readers can easily finger the culprit when they reach the halfway point. However, the veritable smorgasbord of richly developed characters, especially Calamity’s feisty elderly crime-fighting sidekicks, make up for the story’s predictable ending.

It seems apparent readers just can’t get enough of this kind-hearted, frizzy-haired amateur sleuth. Calamity Jayne is the first installment in Kathleen Bacus’s series: Calamity Jayne Rides Again, Ghouls Just Want to Have Fun and Calamity Jayne Goes to College.

If you’re interested in a light beach read, pick this one up. A word to the wise: if you’re prone to laughing out loud when reading funny books, try not to read Calamity Jayne when you’re sandwiched between two sleeping passengers on an airplane…sometimes we learn these things the hard way.