Winter Mini-Reviews 3: Chick Lit and a Series Finale

I am trying to wrap up my 2014 reviews by posting some mini-reviews for things I neglected to review in full.  This is the post for everything else that didn’t fit into the two previous posts, so I have a couple of chick lit titles and a fantasy series finale.


Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close

Girls in White Dresses tells the interconnected stories of a group of friends in their 20s, post-college, living in New York City.  It follow their various journeys through early adulthood– romantic relationships, starting out in a career, changing careers, never quite finding that real job you thought you’d have post-college, weddings of friends, friends having children, bad mothers-in-law, family stuff, etc.

What I liked: The stories were sharp and funny and all the stories and characters in this book felt familiar to me.  This book really captures what it is like to be in your 20s in the 2000s/2010s (as a white middle class college graduate anyways).  It was refreshing to get a more holistic view of these girls’ lives and I especially loved seeing them flounder in the area of career as that was the biggest struggle for me in my 20s.
What I felt meh about: I had some expectations coming into this book– the blurb made it sounds like it had a more cohesive plot structure, so I was initially bored and struggled to get into it.  Once I let go of my expectations and got further into the book, it totally clicked for me and I was sad to see it end.
All in all: I highly recommend this book, especially if you liked The Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing.  I want to reread it some time and I have bought another book by this author since this one resonated so well with me.


After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Lauren and Ryan have been married for about five years and have reached a breaking point in their relationship.  They’re not really sure they love each other any more.  So they decide to take a one year hiatus from their relationship and reevaluate after that break.  This sets Lauren on a journey of self-discovery, as she tries to figure out how to fix her marriage and whether she even wants to fix it in the first place.

What I liked: I loved Lauren’s family.  She is very close to her mother and two siblings and I loved to see the exploration of adult familial relationships along side the exploration of the meaning of love and marriage.  Lauren learns that love and marriage and romance mean different things to different people and has to decide what it means for her.
What I felt meh about: I wasn’t keen on the ending– it was just a little too tidy for my preferences.
All in all: This is smart chick lit that is easy and fun to read.  Loved it and highly recommend it.



The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman

This is the final installment in The Magicians Trilogy.  I read the other two books almost three years ago so coming to this one after a long distance was a bit tough.  Quentin has been kicked out of Fillory and is trying to figure out what to do next.  Mostly he wants to save Alice (who got turned into a nifkin way back in the first book).  Meanwhile, in Fillory the world is ending.  Quentin ends up landing a job in a magical heist.  This heist gives him some tools to help in saving Alice, and maybe even Fillory.

What I liked: I like Grossman’s writing– he’s always smart and funny and clearly loves books as homages to authors and books abound in his books.  I am glad to see an ending to this story, too, and to see how much all the characters have changed over the years.
What I felt meh about: This book was all over the place and encompassed so much, that it was really disjointed for me.
All in all: I’m happy I finished the trilogy, but this was my least favorite of the series.

Mini-Reviews: Part 2

A continuation of the mini-reviews of my January reading.  Part one is here.

The Magicians and The Magician King by Lev Grossman

You know how Homocide is like a gritty Law and Order?  I was told that The Magicians was a gritty Harry Potter.  Gritty?  Yes.  Harry Potter?  Vaguely.  The story is about Quentin, an incredibly intelligent young man who gets accepted into a secret magic college.  He learns some magic and then graduates and is left, like many young adults, wandering drunk and aimlessly into adulthood.  He and his magician buddies experiment in inter-world travel and end up in the magical, Narnia-esque land of Fillory.  Adventures of a gritty and not-so-heroic and not-so-happily-ever-after nature ensue.  When I started The Magicians, I complained to my husband that it was paced too slowly and that I wasn’t really into it.  And then immediately after I got so absorbed by the book that I could not put it down, finished it quickly, and decided to go get the next book from the library.  The Magician King was also paced slowly, but was really absorbing.  Wait these out, they are so worth it.  If you like fantasy, but also intelligent and funny, books, read these.  Grossman has a way with words that is just delightful and amusing… I wish I had saved some of my favorite quotes to illustrate why I kept laughing out loud while reading.  Also, I read a little of his blog (google it, if you need a sampling of his humor).  The dude can write.  Anyways, I am eagerly awaiting the next installment and the TV series that might come out of this, too.  And, by the by, these books have inspired me to actually read the Narnia books, since I seemed to have missed them as a child.

The Knife of Never Letting Go, The Ask and the Answer, and Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness

I read The Hunger Games series over Christmas and had read that this trilogy was of a similar genre.  Ness’s series is really wonderful (and I would say it is even better thanThe Hunger Games)– intense and heartbreaking.  The premise of the books is that a boy, Todd, lives in a world of all males where everyone can hear one another’s thoughts, which are called “Noise.”  One day Todd comes across some strange things, silence and a girl.  The girl, Viola, and Todd go on to become major players in a war that threatens to destroy their entire planet.  There is a lot of meat on this bone.  Issues of maturity/coming of age, gender roles/equality, racial (well, interspecies) conflicts/equality, power, and violence/warfare all come into the story.  Perhaps the most important issue Ness brings up is the power of information or the Noise- how it unites people, divides people, and controls people.  If YA dystopia appeals to you, this is a must-read series.

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

I had seen good things about this book everywhere and enjoyed what little I had read of Rubin’s blog, so I decided to check out the book (after a loooong wait on the hold list at the library).  I have been thinking a lot in the last six months or so about ways in which to improve my quality of life, so I enjoyed that this book offered concrete examples of simple and straight-forward ways in which the author increased her own happiness without making any major life changes (no divorce, moving to India, religious conversion, or the like).  This book has inspired me to be a little more active in trying to make my own happiness, especially in the areas of physical health and also in organizing my clutter.  Her tip to tidy up 15 minutes every evening really helps smooth my mornings out… although I haven’t been perfect in following through with it.  The unhappiness in my life right now is largely career-related and Rubin was already so settled and happy in her career that her advice in that area wasn’t that helpful to me.  An interesting read for sure, but perhaps a bit overrated.  It may just be that I am not totally into self-help, but this was not as life-changing as I was led to believe it would be.