Review: Beach Trip by Cathy Holton

imageDB.cgiYou might think Beach Trip by Cathy Holton would be a light, fun, summertime romp, based on the cover and the description, but it really isn’t that.  I’d call it women’s fiction, which to me means it’s a bit more serious than chick lit, and a lot less fluffy than what I think of as a beach read. 

The story is about Lola, Mel, Sara, and Annie, college roommates and close friends who get together some 20 years later, in their 40’s, for a week at the beach.  Life has taken them in completely different directions since their college years, but they still have a bond. 

Alternating between the past and present, we get to know the women as they were and are.  Lola- rich, beautiful, married to the very controlling Briggs, is sweet but childlike- she seemed medicated and in her own little world during the week at the beach.  Mel, the wild one, is a twice-divorced writer and a breast cancer survivor who gets the women talking over margaronas.  Sara is an attorney whose marriage is suffering under the strain of a difficult medical diagnosis for one of her children.  Annie is an empty nester and uptight clean freak with secrets of her own.  I related most to Sara, a former career woman with a long marriage and a couple of kids, whose life isn’t perfect, but I found Mel to be the most interesting of the four.

The women don’t connect immediately at the beach- they definitely have their guard up- and it takes almost the entire trip before they have any meaningful conversation with each other.  I doubt they would have been friends without their shared history- they are friends because they’ve known each other forever.  But as the week wears on and the secrets start coming out, their friendship grows and changes to allow for the mature people they’ve become.  

So much of the first 3/4ths of the book is made up of the women’s inner dialogue- being around their old friends brings on a flood of memories- so much so that I kept thinking, are they ever going to really talk to each other?  They are all so self involved!  But then, finally, they do talk and share their lives with each other.  That’s when the book starts to get really good. 

I like when a book can surprise me, and there are a couple of big twists in Beach Trip.  The ending was great- it totally made the book for me!  One twist was obvious to me from the beginning (I’m not sure I’d even call it a twist, but then in our Summer Reading Series discussion, several people said that their favorite part was when it was revealed, so I guess it was a twist).  The end, though, really took me by surprise.  If you’ve read the book, don’t give it away!  It’s a great ending. 

I’d recommend Beach Trip to anyone who likes women’s fiction.  For more thoughts on Beach Trip, follow Cathy Holton’s TLC Book Tour.

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: The Space Between Before and After by Jean Reynolds Page

The Book Gods have been kind to me.  Recently I received a package from the Avon Trade division of Harper Collins containing not one but two books for my review.  I was tempted to add them to my ever growing stack, knowing it might be weeks before I got around to them, but instead passed one of those books and a couple others from the review stack to Elaine, a friend in my book club.  This girl is a reading machine!  Within a few days time she’d read the three books I’d given her and reviewed them for me.  Here is her first review for Books on the Brain:

The Space Between Before and After by Jean Reynolds Page is about a slightly dysfunctional family and their three-day visit in a small rural town in Texas.  Holli/Hollyanne, divorced and living in NY, believes that her aging grandmother who raised her is loosing her grip on reality.  Holli decides to go to her childhood home in Thaxton, TX, to check up on Grandma Raine to make sure she is all right.  Around the same time, she hears that her twenty-year-old son, Connor, who had recently run away from college with his girlfriend and moved into a trailer behind Grandma Raine’s house in Thaxton, may also be facing a crisis of his own, with his girlfriend in the hospital.  As a result, all the family descends upon Thaxton to solve these problems and, consequently, create more family drama than Holli initially expected. 

This three-day trip becomes the setting for some critical life decisions, secrets revealed, reflections into love, faith and loss, and flashbacks into Holli’s own troubled childhood.   The drama in the Texas home, the majority of the book, reminded me of a stage play, with lots of one-on-one conversations rotating between the various characters.  This part of the novel seemed to drag on a bit after the major conflicts are introduced.  In contrast, Holli’s flashbacks to her childhood and relationships with her father and stepmother, I believe, were interesting and heartbreaking.  Coincidentally or not, many of the tragedies of Holli’s life happen in concert with events in space.  I am still trying to figure out if there is any deeper symbolism in the space theme (the emptiness, the danger of traveling into the “heavens”, etc.), but I felt like it was more of a literary “gimmick” to tie the events together, more than anything else.  Also, it seemed as though every character had a secret to reveal and there seemed to be a few too many parallel tragedies in the story to be realistic, although maybe some families are simply that unlucky. 

The novel is extremely well written, albeit slightly long.  Minor criticisms aside, the book is a very enjoyable read and I would recommend it to someone interested in family drama. 

Blogger Bio:  Elaine Legere is 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.