Review: Two Years, No Rain by Shawn Klomparens

coverTwo Years, No Rain by Shawn Klomparens is a fitting book for me to review right now, as the first rainstorm of the year blew through today.  After digging out the umbrellas and dusting off the boots it occurred to me that the kids probably wouldn’t fit into any of their rain gear.  Yes, it has been that long since we’ve had rain.  I can’t remember the last time we had measurable rainfall in Southern California, but it was probably back in March or April.

The weather is used as a metaphor in Two Years, No Rain.  Andy Dunne is a weatherman on the radio but his job is a bit dull and predictable, what with the ever-present sunshine and mild temps in San Diego County.  Not only has the climate been dry; Andy’s career and personal life have gone through a long drought as well.  But the storm clouds of change are looming on the horizon…

Andy’s marriage has failed after his wife cheated on him repeatedly.   Even so, he feels responsible because he hasn’t been an attentive husband.  For the last two years he’s been pining away for a married colleague, Hillary.  Late night phone calls with wine glasses in hand (drunk dialing?) and frequent texting (“What are you wearing?”) are as far as the relationship has gone, but there’s an emotional investment here that he can’t deny.

Hillary sets him up on an interview for a new children’s TV show similar to Blues Clues and he lands the job.  He starts a workout regime in order to prepare for his on-air gig and within weeks he looks and feels better than ever and is being recognized whenever he goes out, and not just by kids.  Hot young moms all over town want to buy him a drink or get his autograph.  He likes the attention to a point but is mostly uninterested and wants to be with Hillary.  He’s waited for her (and the rain) for a very long time.

Hillary’s husband has taken notice of all the messages between them and tells Andy to back off.  The indignant Hillary tells her husband she can be friends with whoever she wants, and soon Andy and Hillary have regular lunch dates and are getting cozier and cozier.  However Hillary is inconsistent (come here.. go away.. come here.. go away) and Andy is confused.  Hillary’s husband is neglectful and often absent, making her open to Andy’s attentions at times but also leaving her with guilt over their relationship.

Andy drinks too much, makes some poor choices, gets really angry,  holds a grudge,   passes out, falls down, ignores health warnings, finds success, carries on with a married woman, and buries his true feelings.  He’s also sweet, wounded, vulnerable, a good uncle, and a nice guy.  In other words, he’s a very realistic and relatable character.

I liked Andy and hoped he would figure everything out, but he also frustrated me.  He wasn’t exactly a man of action.  He was rather passive and just let things happen to him,.  I wanted him to be more of a take charge guy; more John Wayne, less.. I don’t know.  I’m trying to think of an actor that’s kind of bland.   He had a certain charm, especially in the scenes with his niece, and I did like him, but I was really waiting for him to be a more manly man.  But that was not to be.

I enjoyed Two Years, No Rain.  It was unusual reading a chick-lit style book with a guy as the main character.  That was a first for me and it was a refreshing change of pace. There were funny moments, good dialogue, and unusual situations.  If you like chick lit, but are looking for something a little different,  give this one a try!

A bunch of us discussed this book over the summer.  Check out this post to see the comments.  You can visit the author’s website and learn more about his work HERE.

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Summer Reading Series: Two Years, No Rain Discussion Questions

flower summer seriesHello Summer Readers!

Our August Summer Reading Series selection is Two Years, No Rain by Shawn Klomparens.  Shawn will be popping in to answer any questions you might have, so leave your questions in the comments.  Here is a synopsis of the book, and following are discussion questions that I’ve dreamed up. Please feel free to leave your answers here, or add your own questions.

cover

An earnest journey from heartache to heartthrob and all the emotions along the way; at once an old-fashioned love story and a cautionary tale of self-reinvention.

In San Diego County, it hasn’t rained in 580 days. But for weatherman Andy Dunne, everything else is changing fast…Only a few weeks ago, he was a newly divorced, slightly overweight meteorologist for an obscure satellite radio station, hiding his secret love for a colleague, the beautiful—and very much married—Hillary Hsing. But nearly overnight, Andy has landed a new gig, flying a magic carpet in a bizarre live-action children’s TV show. So what is affable, basically decent Andy Dunne going to do now that he can do practically anything he wants? With a parade of hot moms begging for his autograph and a family that needs his help more than ever, Andy has a lot of choices. First, though, there’s this thing with Hillary, their heated text messages, a long-awaited forecast for rain – and a few other surprises he never saw coming… 

SO READERS- let’s get the discussion started! These are just a few questions to get you thinking- you don’t have to answer them all. Please feel free to respond to each others answers, too.

1.  The book opens on the day Andy’s wife is moving out of their house.  His wife has cheated on him repeatedly, yet he feels the divorce is his fault.  Is it?

2.  What kind of husband was Andy?  What kind of brother/brother in law/friend/uncle is he?

3.   Is an emotional affair as damaging to a relationship as a real (physical) affair?  

4.  Some reviewers have referred to this book as “dude-lit”, or chick lit with a guy as the main character. Would you agree?  What was this like as a reading experience? 

5.  What factors are instrumental in pulling Andy out of his funk, both emotionally and professionally?  (i.e. working out, encouragement from friends, having Hannah around, etc.)  What kinds of things help to pull you out of a rut?

6.  Andy’s new job on Andy’s Magic Carpet gives him a measure of fame that he is unaccustomed to.  What did he learn about himself as a result?

7.  What role do the Jasons (Andy’s twin and Hill’s husband) play in the book for Andy?

8.  Did you find the characters likeable?  Who did you like the most?  The least?

9.  Did you enjoy the weather metaphors in Two Years, No Rain?

We can’t wait to hear your thoughts on Two Years, No Rain! PLEASE try to avoid major plot spoilers in the comments, for people who haven’t yet read the book.  If your comment is spoiler-ish, put the word SPOILER first before leaving your comment!

These summer book discussions have been so fun!  You can check out our earlier discussions for Beach Trip in June and All We Ever Wanted Was Everything in July.

Thanks for reading along with us this summer! xoxo, Lisa and Mari


Review: The Opposite of Love by Julie Buxbaum

cover-opposite-love-pb Julie Buxbaum’s terrific debut novel, The Opposite of Love,  is about 29 year old Manhattan attorney Emily Haxby.  The story begins as Emily breaks up with Andrew, her boyfriend of two years with whom she’s had a happy, comfortable, passionate relationship, just as he seems to be on the verge of proposing marriage.  

No one understands this; not her friends, not her family, and she can’t articulate it very well to anybody.  We soon learn it’s not about the awesome Andrew- it has everything to do with Emily; her fear of being left has forced her to push him away.  “You’re your own worst enemy,” her best friend Jess tells her.  “It’s like you get pleasure out of breaking your own heart.” 

Emily’s outwardly enviable life is a little messy just below the surface. Emily’s job for a high powered law firm is sucking the life out of her, and her married boss is harassing her.  She has trouble connecting with others-communication is not her special talent.  Losing her mother to cancer at 14, Emily and her dad grew apart and shut down emotionally.  Grandpa Jack stepped in to pick up the slack and became her sole support system, and now her beloved grandpa has been diagnosed with Alzhiemers. 

As her grandpa’s health declines and her career falls apart, Emily braces herself for more loss.  Her dad, the lieutenant governor of Connecticut, is too busy and too in denial to help care for her grandpa, so decisions about his care fall to her.  Motherless Emily needs guidance and she finds it in the form of Ruth, a wise retired judge and friend of her Grandpa Jack, who encourages her to live her life fully and take chances.  

Bottom Line:  I really liked The Opposite of Love!  I cared about Emily and related to her complicated mess of conflicted feelings.  The writing is solid and the story, while light in some ways, is not fluffy.  There are very funny parts, but it is the kind of humor I like best- wry and sarcastic and intelligent.  It has a lot to say about relationships, communication, love, and loss.  Book clubs would find a lot to talk about (discussion questions can be found HERE) and the author is available for Q & A’s via email or chats.

I can’t wait to see The Opposite of Love on the big screen next year starring Anne Hathaway as Emily (fantastic casting!).  It’ll make a really good movie, but read it first.  As they say, the book is always better.

Author Julie Buxbaum’s website can be found HERE and her new book, After You, comes out August 25th.

Review: One True Theory of Love by Laura Fitzgerald

51svuaqeq5l_sl500_aa240_One True Theory of Love by Laura Fitzgerald is such a good book.  It would probably be classified as chick lit- which is defined by wiktionary.org as “literature perceived to appeal to, or be marketed at, young women, typically concerning romantic dilemmas.”  So now I guess we need to define young, because I’m a mom in my forties and I loved it.  Can we call it women’s fiction, rather than the more condescending-sounding “chick lit”?  

The story is about second chances in life and in love.  Meg Clark is a spunky kindergarten teacher and single mom whose heart was trounced by her cheating ex, Jonathon, but who, almost 10 years later, is doing pretty well.  She and 9 year old son Henry are in a good place.  They are happy, and they are a package deal who, after meeting the handsome Ahmed in a coffee shop, announce “we don’t date.”  

But of course, that will change.   Meg wears her heart on her sleeve and soon lets down her guard and allows Ahmed into her life, much to Henry’s delight.  Ahmed is a great guy; kind, sexy, successful, great with kids and honest to a fault.  He’s very easygoing but cannot tolerate a lie in any form.  Ahmed’s trust issues stem from his relationship with his father.  When he rigidly refuses to understand a “lie of omission” (which to him is a deal-breaker) they break up.  Meg, advised by her father to withhold certain information from Ahmed, is stunned. 

The eternally optimistic Meg tends to see the best in others, causing some blind spots where her loved ones are concerned.  Her parents, separating after 35 years, are each looking for something better, a second chance.  Having always been daddy’s girl, she is critical of her mother and worships her dad.  However, after discovering that her dad has been having an affair with his secretary for many years, she feels shocked and betrayed, even though everyone knows except Meg, because she just refused to see the truth.  

images-1I enjoyed the romantic chemistry and banter between Ahmed and Meg.  Ahmed, an Iranian American, fielded some questions/comments about his background, but it was mostly a non-issue.  Author Fitzgerald is married to an Iranian American so maybe that’s why it all seemed perfectly natural.  There were no culture clashes, no latent racism.  That was an aspect of the book I respected and enjoyed. 

I really liked this book.  The characters and situations felt very real and were wholly likeable.  I would recommend this to all the chicks who like lit and to the more mature lovers of women’s fiction.  Whichever one you are, I predict you will like One True Theory of Love.  If you haven’t read Fitzgerald’s earlier book, Veil of Roses, you definitely should check that one out, too!

You can find out more about Laura Fitzgerald and her books at her website.  Here she tells how One True Theory of Love was actually inspired by a group of women at a book club discussion of Veil of Roses!  How cool is that??

Review: The Makedown by Gitty Daneshvari

51ydhmd7v5l_sl500_aa240_The phantom guest reviewer, Elaine, is at it again!  Here she talks about The Makedown by Gitty Daneshvari, sent to us by the wonderful Miriam at Hachette.

Is it possible to write a hilarious book about a sad, pathetic main character?  Author Gitty Daneshvari has found the formula in her novel The Makedown.  Anna Norton has always been fat, with acne and a sweaty moustache on her upper lip.  The influence of her completely dysfunctional family doesn’t help much.  She has never had friends and lacks the fundamental social skills to navigate the simplest of life’s moments.  Luckily, she is smart, and decides she needs a fresh start in New York.  She meets her Fairy Godmother (affectionately known as “FG”) in a caterer, who was also once fat, and takes Anna’s physical transformation on as a project.  

Emerging as a better looking, better dressed woman, she begins dating Ben Reynolds, who is aesthetically perfect.  Anna knows Ben is “out of her league,” but she is in love.  Just when we think Anna finally has it all together, her insecurities get the best of her and she decides to “makedown” Ben, so that other women will no longer be attracted to him.  We watch helplessly as Anna becomes completely unglued, and as Ben’s looks deteriorate, her relationship spins out of control. 

Why was I laughing during all this insanity?  Because Gitty Daneshvari’s comic writing is no less than brilliant.  Every sentence is packed with high energy and wit.  Her frequent pop culture references about everything from Care Bears to Footloose were hysterically funny and completely spot on (probably enjoyed most by the “Baby Boomer” and “Gen X” sets).   I loved every moment of this tragic, hilarious, unique book, and found it hard to put down (sorry kids!)  The Makedown is “chick lit” at its very finest, and a highly recommended read for any fan of the genre.    

Blogger Bio:  Elaine Legere is a stay-at-home mommy and part-time marketing consultant, after years of working for Disney, Palm (aka Palm Pilot), Los Angeles Times, and Details Magazine.  She received her BA at UCLA in English Literature and an MBA from University of Colorado. She is an avid reader, loves movies, and all things outdoors.

Also Reviewed at the following lovely blogs:

 A Novel Menagerie

Books by TJBaff

Bookshipper

Unmainstream Mom Reads

Review: The Bishop’s Daughter by Tiffany Warren

Recently I received several books for review from Miriam at Hachette Book Group.  I passed a few on to my book club friend, Elaine, who eats books for lunch!  She quickly gobbled up The Bishop’s Daughter by Tiffany Warren, and here is her review.

41r30bzj3rl_sl500_aa240_ The Bishop’s Daughter, by Tiffany Warren, tells the story of Emoni, who is the smart, albeit less pretty, daughter of a pastor (Bishop) of a “mega church” in Atlanta, and Darrin, the womanizing writer who leaves his wealthy family and a clingy girlfriend in Cleveland to go undercover to find a scandal within the church and write an article that will finally jump start his non-existent journalism career.      

I was initially intrigued with this book because, like Darrin, I have always been a bit suspicious of wealthy pastors.  I thought the conflict within Darrin, the writer who wants his first big story, and the Darrin who falls in love with the Bishop’s daughter would be interesting.  However, Darrin almost immediately upon arrival sees that there no scandal to write about – the Bishop’s family lives frugally and the Bishop himself is a man of high morals.   

Since Darrin cannot find scandal or abuse with the Bishop, the story quickly begins to focus on the love lives of Darrin and Emoni, which to me was a much less interesting theme.  The personal lives of the Bishop’s family eventually present Darrin with some juicy gossip about which he considers writing, but we never really see a true conflict between career and love.  The story evolves into one about the relationship between Emoni and Darrin, with some side stories about Emoni’s and Darrin’s respective families.  

The novel is written with alternating first person view points of Emoni and Darrin, which has its pros and cons.  The downside is that since we can hear both of their thoughts, we know they are instantly attracted to one another, so it is pretty predictable how the story will end.  What I enjoyed the most was listening into Darrin’s thoughts, a “brotha” who “gets with” just about any woman he wants, until he is confronted with the pretty women in the congregation who don’t want to have sex until after marriage.  All in all, Tiffany Warren’s writing style is easily enjoyed and this novel ends up as a light-hearted, “chick lit” read about love and family.     

Blogger Bio:  Elaine Legere is a stay-at-home mommy and part-time marketing consultant, after years of working for Disney, Palm (aka Palm Pilot), Los Angeles Times, and Details Magazine.  She received her BA at UCLA in English Literature and an MBA from University of Colorado. She is an avid reader, loves movies, and all things outdoors.

Review: Getting Rid of Matthew by Jane Fallon

I don’t read a lot of chick lit, and even less Brit chick lit, and maybe there’s a good reason for that.  

Getting Rid of Matthew by Jane Fallon is about Helen, an almost 40 year old secretary in a London PR firm who for 4 years has been having an affair with her boss, Matthew- 20 years her senior.  She sees him 3 nights a week in her cramped apartment.  

The book opens in bed with the alarm going off and Matthew getting up and getting ready to leave the house.  But this is not 8am, it’s 8pm, and he is not simply leaving for work, he is going home to his beautiful house, his lovely wife Sophie, and his two beloved daughters.  Helen’s life is small and pitiful- her career has been downsized because of her affair- she transferred to a different department, thus being labeled as difficult.  She has one friend and virtually no social life.  She’s self absorbed, shallow and petty, and she’s constantly begging Matthew to leave his wife. 

Matthew has agreed to see her over a long holiday weekend, but completely forgets about it during the festivities at his house.  He steals away to call her behind closed doors and she realizes he’s forgotten.  They have a fight and she refuses to see or talk to him for a couple weeks, during which time she makes up her mind to end the relationship.  But before she can end it, Matthew tells his wife everything and shows up on Helen’s doorstep with his bags in hand.  Rather than being honest (no one in this book is honest), she decides to give it a go, because she’s flattered that he left his family for her.  He regularly reminds her of his great sacrifice. 

From there things go downhill.  As Helen and Matthew’s relationship goes public, the office is abuzz, and it isn’t pretty.  Helen is disturbed that people see Matthew as an old man, not the ‘catch’ she always thought him to be, and she is embarrassed by that (although she doesn’t seem embarrassed by the fact that she’s been doing the boss for years- only that people see him as old). 

Helen decides the only way to get rid of the old man is to somehow get him back together with his wife.  Soon she is stalking Sophie and through a series of unlikely events, befriends her under the fake name of Eleanor.  Eleanor/Helen and Sophie strike up a friendship and it isn’t long before that friendship becomes more important to Helen than the relationship with Matthew.  Sophie wants Matthew back, so Helen uses that to her advantage and plots to get the two back together.  Through Sophie she also meets Leo, an attractive man her own age, who she finds herself wanting to get to know.  Turns out he’s Matthew’s son from his first marriage.  Helen finds herself in quite a pickle and I kept reading at this point just waiting for the inevitable train wreck. 

This book is chock full of negative clichés, horrible people, and foul language.  Helen is the homewrecker, Matthew is the textbook cheating husband, Sophie is the wronged woman who wants the bastard back despite everything, the bitches in the office are full of gossip and backstabbing.  Everyone is drinking way too much, all the time.  The versatile F word is on nearly every page in various forms- as a verb, noun, adjective, adverb-  and in one particularly creative sentence was used 4 times.  Apparently it’s the new “bloody”.  There are a lot of British references and colloquialisms that I didn’t get or didn’t find funny.  In fact, I didn’t find anything funny in this book- it’s completely unfunny and unlikeable.  But I must say something nice- so I’ll say that I do like the cover and the title, and the quality of the writing.  But that’s about all I can say.  If I were the type to give out stars, Getting Rid of Matthew would get only one.