Reviews

Book Review: Katwalk

Katwalk, by Maria Murnane

Publication: Lake Union Publishing; August 12, 2014

katwalkAbout the book: 

Katrina Lynden has always walked a straight line in life, an approach that has resulted in a stable career and pleased her hard-nosed parents but that has also left her feeling unfulfilled—and miserable. When her best friend suggests they quit their Silicon Valley jobs and embark on two months of adventure in New York City, Katrina balks at the idea but ultimately agrees, terrified yet proud of herself for finally doing something interesting with her life. But when her friend has to back out at the last minute, Katrina finds herself with a tough decision to make. Much to her surprise, she summons the courage to go alone, and the resulting journey changes everything. Along the way, she makes new friends, loses others, learns what is really important to her, and finds a way to grow up without leaving herself behind.

My Review

Who, What, When, etc.

Katwalk is the story of Katrina Lynden, a young woman living in Silicon Valley, working as an accountant in an advertising agency. Katrina’s best friend, Deb, convinces Katrina to quit their jobs and head to New York for a few months for an adventure, but when Deb tries to quit, she is offered a promotion. Shy, reserved Katrina has already quit so heads off to New York on her own. 

Upon her arrival at her new apartment, she meets her neighbors Shana and Grace, then soon meet’s Grace’s boyfriend Josh when she goes with them for drinks, something that Katrina never does. An old college friend Brittany introduces her to the handsome but married Reid, and Katrina soon meets the very good-looking and charming barista, Justin. 

With her new friends calling her Kat, she starts sight-seeing, trying new things, and eventually finds herself in the big city with new dreams.

Thoughts and Reactions

As frequent readers already know, I am a huge fan of Maria Murnane and her stories about young women finding their way in this crazy world. In the beginning of the novel, I can’t say I was a huge fan of the main character. She was so incredibly shy and unsure of herself that it was frustrating. However, after arriving in New York and meeting new people, Kat slowly started to find and reveal her true self and true passion in life. 

I loved the plot of this novel that was fast-paced with the perfect amount of subplots on the side, however, the main focus was Kat and her new adventures. Specifically, I admired the way the author brought her out of her shell at a realistic pace and didn’t base Kat’s happiness on just one thing. She had attention from men that she had never experienced, wild and crazy friends that wanted to hit the bars all of the time, she started exercising and getting healthy, and she started following her heart about what she wanted out of life. All of these things combined were a part of Kat’s changes, rather than just a guy or a new job. 

As typical in Maria Murnane’s novels, I fell in love with all of the characters. They each brought their own unique contributions to the novel and were special in their own ways, even when they were being bad, such as Reid. Shana and Grace were fantastic, hilarious, and genuinely wonderful people – as was Grace’s boyfriend Josh. Brittany seemed genuinely nice in her friendship with Kat, yet she was so completely different from Kat she almost seemed like a mother. The only character I truly disliked from beginning to end was Kat’s mother. She was snooty, bossy, controlling, and drove me insane. 

Katwalk will definitely instill some wanderlust and inspiration into your soul, as well as, leave a smile on your face after you’ve finished reading. I have yet to read anything by author Maria Murnane that I didn’t find absolutely wonderful, and Katwalk is no exception. 

*Many thanks to Maria Murnane for providing this novel in exchange for my honest review!

Purchase Katwalk on Amazon!

Learn more about Maria Murnane!

Reviews

Book Review: Beautiful Animals

Beautiful Animals: A Novel,

by Lawrence Osborne

Publication: Hogarth; July 18, 2017

beautanimalsAbout the book: 

On a hike during a white-hot summer break on the Greek island of Hydra, Naomi and Samantha make a startling discovery: a man named Faoud, sleeping heavily, exposed to the elements, but still alive. Naomi, the daughter of a wealthy British art collector who has owned a villa in the exclusive hills for decades, convinces Sam, a younger American girl on vacation with her family, to help this stranger. As the two women learn more about the man, a migrant from Syria and a casualty of the crisis raging across the Aegean Sea, their own burgeoning friendship intensifies. But when their seemingly simple plan to help Faoud unravels all must face the horrific consequences they have set in motion.

In this brilliant psychological study of manipulation and greed, Lawrence Osborne explores the dark heart of friendship and shows just how often the road to hell is paved with the best of intentions.

My Review:

Who, What, When, etc.

Beautiful Animals is a novel about a young woman named Naomi while vacationing with her father and stepmother at their summer home in Greece. Naomi is in her twenties, finished law school, but has already had an unsuccessful career. Naomi has a strained, yet somewhat affectionate relationship with her wealthy, art collector father and has a very cold and distant relationship with her stepmother. 

Samantha (Sam) is also a young woman vacationing on the Greek island of Hydra, a few years younger than Naomi and with a more close-knit family. Although also from a very wealthy family, Sam is much more naive and innocent than Naomi, thus beginning an interesting friendship. 

During a day excursion on Naomi’s family’s yacht, Naomi and Sam discover a man on the far end of the island, sleeping, and obviously injured. After some time they realize he is there illegally from Syria, but without him providing much detail regarding his circumstances. They decide they want to help him and the young women continue bringing him supplies, helping him with private places to stay, and eventually provide him with means to a great deal of wealth without truly considering the consequences. 

Thoughts & Reactions

Occasionally I will look at reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, etc. prior to writing my review, simply because I wonder if a particular reaction is just me, or if others have felt the same. Beautiful Animals is one that I did look at other reviews prior to writing this, but it appears as if the things I enjoyed, most others didn’t, and vice versa. 

Let me start with the actual writing. Lawrence Osborne has crafted a beautiful novel. This is one of those novels that while reading, you feel as if you are floating on some perfect cloud of perfect imagery, description, and dialogue. This is masterful writing that requires thinking and feeling on your part as a reader. Moreover, I cannot imagine how anyone could read this book without developing overwhelming wanderlust. The descriptions of the landscape, food, alcohol, people, etc. have solidified my desire and need to visit Greece (and Italy).

Similar to an issue I had recently with another novel, there was not one character in this novel that I liked, or even respected for that matter. Naomi has lived an overly privileged life, with the exception of the death of her mother when Naomi was a teenager. Living in London with family homes in Italy and Greece, Naomi has been sheltered and spoiled beyond belief, although she was also extremely intelligent and independent. Her father Jimmie and her stepmother Phaine were basically narcissistic, alcoholic social climbers with even fewer redeeming qualities than Naomi. 

Sam and her family were wealthy New Yorkers, but much less pretentious than Naomi’s family. There were several references to Sam playing Scrabble with her father or going to the beach with her mother – things that would never have occurred with Naomi’s family. Remaining characters included the angry and diabolical maid Carissa, Faoed the illegal young man from Syria, and Jimmie’s friend and odd, secretive business partner Rockhold. All of them had equally unpleasant characteristics. 

Regarding the overall plot of the novel, I found it unique, engaging, and interesting. This wasn’t the best novel for me to take along on a weekend camping trip, but I did find myself captivated and unable to put it down. This wasn’t just a “rich girl helping a refugee story,”  but something much more complex about people in general. Why are people willing to risk so much for a stranger? Why do some people feel compelled to put their own family at risk for a cause? What has happened in a person’s life to make them completely numb to consequences of one’s behavior?

As always, I don’t want to give spoilers, but this novel is a shining example of a wealthy, spoiled woman that feels so entitled she is unable to look beyond herself. Naomi frequently plays the “I had a bad parent card” throughout the novel as a justification to herself and others, but it did nothing to inspire me to be more tolerant of her. 

Recommendations

Readers that enjoy higher-level writing that is thought-provoking (both good and bad), should enjoy and respect this novel. I loved the writing, as well as, the overall plot idea. However, if you need to make a connection with a particular character in order to enjoy a novel, Beautiful Animals is not the book for you. 

*Thanks to Blogging for Books for this novel in exchange for an honest review. 

Purchase Beautiful Animals on Amazon!

Learn more about Lawrence Osborne by visiting his web page.

Reviews

Book Review: Honey on Your Mind

Honey on Your Mind (The (Mis)Adventures of Waverly Bryson Book 3), by Maria Murnane

Publication:  Lake Union Publishing; July 24, 2012

honey on your mindAbout the book: 

For Waverly Bryson, life is anything but boring! And never is that fact more evident than in Maria Murnane’s delightful third novel about the irrepressible heroine. This time around, Waverly faces a game-changing opportunity: an offer to turn her popular advice column into a regular guest spot on the new TV show Love, Wendy. It could be the break of a lifetime—but for a few not-so-minor details. For starters, Waverly’s acceptance of the job means moving clear across the country, giving up her rent-controlled apartment, and leaving behind her best friends McKenna and Andie. Oh, and there’s the fact that TV host extraordinaire Wendy Davenport is none-too-pleased by the prospect of Waverly usurping her broadcast throne. Then there’s Jake, Waverly’s boyfriend. He’s as crazy about her as ever. His mother, on the other hand? Not so much. But Waverly wouldn’t be Waverly if she didn’t tackle these challenges head on, with all the zeal, good humor, and, yes, occasional catastrophe that we’ve come to expect from “the American Bridget Jones.” Witty, light-hearted, and fun, Honey on Your Mind is Waverly Bryson at her best.

My Review:

Who, What, When, Where

This time around, Waverly has just accepted a new job requiring her to move across the country to New York City. She’s excited but nervous, especially working with Wendy. 

Andie is considering whether or not she should move in with Nick and McKenna is still adjusting to motherhood. Jake is still around of course and still delicious, although very elusive at times.

This installment introduces us to Andie’s cousin, Paige, who helps Waverly grow her Honey merchandise business, as well as, relays some of her own hilarious dating stories. 

Thoughts and Reactions

I think this is my favorite of the Waverly books so far! Although not as funny as previous Waverly books, this one seemed to have a bit more substance and emotion. Maria Murnane presents Waverly so vulnerable several times, and not just her normal nervous issues. I got to see a very different, somewhat grown-up side of Waverly, while still possessing her hilarious quirkiness that I love.

Several twists were thrown into this novel, affecting not only Waverly but several other characters in both good and bad ways. I’m still not a huge fan of Wendy, but the author definitely sheds new light on her as a character and provided some insight as to why she is such an annoying and fake person. 

As always with Waverly, there was plenty of conflict and challenges in this novel, but they were new and different keeping things very interesting. Specifically, Jake’s mother… 

Once again I have completely fallen in love with one of Maria Murnane’s novels. They are such light-hearted, feel-good reads that I can quickly devour in just a few hours. Waverly is such an honest, relatable character and Murnane’s plot development is spot on. She has absolutely cornered the market regarding romantic comedy and women’s fiction and of course, I highly recommend Honey on Your Mind to any lovers of this genre. But don’t forget to start at the beginning with Perfect on Paper or you will miss out!

*As always, special thanks to Maria Murnane for providing a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review!

Purchase Honey on Your Mind on Amazon!

Check out Maria Murnane’s web page to learn more about this fantastic author!

 

Reviews

Book Review: Perfect on Paper

Perfect on Paper (The (Mis)Adventures of Waverly Bryson Book 1),

by Maria Murnane

Publication: Lake Union Publishing; January 26, 2010

perfectAbout the book: 

Anything can look perfect on paper. When her fiancé calls off their wedding at the last minute, Waverly Bryson wonders if her life will ever turn out the way she thought it would…or should. Her high-powered job in sports PR? Not so perfect. Her relationship with her dad? Far from it. Her perfect marriage? Enough said. To keep sane, Waverly makes a habit of jotting down “Honey Notes,” her own brand of self-deprecating wisdom and a pipe dream for a line of greeting cards.

As Waverly stumbles back into the dating scene (no stalkers or jean shorts, please), her personal and professional lives threaten to collide. Perfect on Paper reminds us that everyone has a bad date (or twelve) and that everyone eventually needs a best friend to tell them, “Honey, you are not alone.”

My Review:

I cannot believe that I have not read this earlier, but it was such a joy from the first to the last page. Perfect on Paper tells the story of Waverly and her best friends Andie and McKenna. After her fiance calls off their wedding, Waverly starts writing funny “honey-notes” to poke fun at her own life or when inspired by others. She’s got a great job doing Sports PR but isn’t passionate about it. Her relationship with her Dad is complicated and her dating life is one hilarious disaster after another.

Waverly is one of the funniest characters I’ve ever read about. The banter between her and her friends about their dating lives had me laughing out loud multiple times, including one story of a gassy date that had me bent over dying with tears streaming down my face! I love it when books make me really laugh, and this novel provoked such a response several times. I even told the author yesterday before reading that I was in the mood for something happy and uplifting – and Perfect on Paper definitely met those marks. Maria Murnane takes pieces of all of our lives and weaves them into fantastic stories that remind us that we are not alone and that there are plenty of others that have bad dates, get dumped, screw up at work, are clumsy and so on. There is a moment with Waverly eating and choking on a Milky Way which made me feel quite a kinship with her! There were some events here and there that I found a bit too fantastical and too perfect, however, this novel was meant to depict a normal, everyday woman with loads of issues whose life starts to turn around.

Waverly, her friends, and co-workers were very believable and relatable characters, but I must say that Waverly’s love interest Jake is still quite a mystery to me. The author described his physical features and his job, but otherwise, I don’t feel like I really got to know him. Their conversations consisted of Waverly either spewing all sorts of information about her life, or being tongue-tied due to nervousness, but Jake just never really said much.  

I have seen other reviews that are critical of the dialogue in the novel, claiming that it is too immature, too many “I saids” or “she saids,” but I completely disagree. Why you ask? Waverly and her friends had been friends for many, many years. Although they were technically grown-ups, they had a very easy, fun relationship that was very blunt and straight-forward. Call it immature or what you like, but several times during their dialogue I could easily see myself and friends having similar conversations and just being funny. This wasn’t written as serious literary fiction, but light-hearted, women’s fiction that is hilarious. 

Overall, I found this to be a wonderful read that was just what the doctor ordered. It’s funny, crazy, fast-paced, and just a good time! I hope to read more of Waverly’s (mis)adventures in the future!

Special thanks to the author for providing a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review!

Get Perfect on Paper from Amazon!

Learn more about Maria Murnane by visiting her web page!