#89 ~ 37

July 26, 2008 at 9:39 am | Posted in Books, Culture, Family | 5 Comments
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37 by Maria Beaumont

As someone whose 37th birthday is quickly approaching, I could not turn down the opportunity to read this novel by Maria Beaumont. It chronicles the approaching midlife of Fran Clark, a talented former voice over actress living in London.  Fran left acting 10 years earlier when she started her family with her husband Richard. As her 37th birthday party nears, her life and drinking habit get more and more out of control. When everything is finally turned upside down on the night of her party, Fran has to choose  between finding a way to recreate herself or give in to the alcoholism that runs in her family and potentially ruin her children’s childhood. What seems obvious to everyone surrounding her proves to be very difficult for Fran.

37 was written in a comfortable, conversational tone. As someone who has never been to England, I very much enjoyed the dialog. It was delightfully different from what I am used to. Part way through the book the voice in my head while I was reading it even took on a British accent ala Madonna. I love how so often sentences were ended in rhetorical questions. No one uses the word brilliant quite like the British.

Conversation aside, life in upper-middle class London isn’t all that much different than it is here in the United States. Fran has two wonderful best friends, but they are but a life raft in shark invested waters.  Fran’s relationship with her husband suffers from what sadly happens far too often after children are born.  The mothers running her school’s equivalent to the PTA act and react just like catty women everywhere.  Beaumont nailed the competitive nature between women that has no real reason to exist.  Women are our own worst enemies.

37 was somewhat heavier than I had anticipated, but it read quickly.  I related to Fran and empathized with her experiences.  The ending was satisfying and inspiring.  I hope that Maria Beaumont continues to write.  Her voice is what made this story special.

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To buy this book, click here.

#66 ~ Gilding Lily

April 23, 2008 at 11:07 pm | Posted in Books, Culture, entertainment, Family, My Life with Books, Reading | 1 Comment
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Gilding Lily by Tatiana Boncompagni

Sometimes getting what you dream about can become a nightmare. At least that is Lily’s experience in this engaging, fun, and fast-paced novel. Gilding Lily tells the story of a young woman from a middle class background who marries into an established, wealthy family in New York City. Her romance with Robert Bartholomew, which brought her swiftly into society as one of New York’s “It girls,” rivals any Disney Princess story. Only for Lily, her wedding day didn’t signal a victory over a vicious step-mother or blood thirsty dragon. It was only then that her nemesis came out into the full light of day – Josephine Bartholomew, her mother-in-law.

Lily’s time in limelight in New York’s social scene ended as quickly as it began. She became pregnant before the ink was dry on her marriage license. Along with baby came Robert’s career crisis. By the time Will is a few months old, Lily hadn’t lost a pound of her baby weight, is having trouble making ends meet on the income from her husband’s trust, and is lonely and miserable. Robert, without the prospect of a job in sight, spends his days networking with his mother or playing squash at the club. At night he’s often out escorting Josephine to social events. Finally, after a particularly heated argument about the two Ms (money and mother-in-law), Lily decides to go back to work. Her talented writing, her connections, and her knack for getting stories other reporters could only dream of provide Lily with an opportunity to return to New York’s socialite scene. Soon she has to decide if getting the story, becoming a socialite in her own right, and, perhaps, earning her mother-in-law’s respect is worth the risk of losing the man she loves.

From the first chapter where we meet Lily tripping on the hem of couture dress on her way to gala, I was drawn in to the book. I got so involved in the characters that by the end I could hardly put the book down. In fact, if it were not for this book I might never have discovered that I have an unusual talent for reading a paperback while curling my hair and drinking the morning’s first Diet Coke. This novel revolves around New York’s elite, but the highly competitive animosity that often exists between women is universal. When push comes to shove, women are often our own worst enemies. So, where there is a group of women you will usually find a catty woman like Di or a Morgan who is trying to undermine everyone else to insure her position. When your disapproving mother-in-law is the queen bee of that social set, eventually all hell will break lose. As much fun as it is to watch the fur fly, you’ll be hoping along with Lily that having a happy family with Robert really isn’t too good to be true.

Boncompagni’s writing, which is smooth and easy to read, is what really made this book for me. So often when reading chick lit I get the impression that the author thinks nothing about the readers beyond the dollar signs. When reading Gilding Lily, you can sense the pride that Boncompagni has in her work. If this first novel is any indication of what is to come, hers will be a career to follow.

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Gilding Lily will be published in September of 2008. As the publication date draws near, look for a contest here to win your own copy!

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To buy this book, click here.

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