Giveaway + Book Review: Must Love Otters

18715353Title: Must Love Otters
Author: Eliza Gordon
Publisher: West 26th Street Press, NYC
Release Date: October 2013
Series?: n/a
Genre: Chick Lit, Romance
Format: e-book
Source: purchased
Challenge: n/a

Find the book: Website | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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mustloveotters

Synopsis

Hollie Porter is the chairwoman of Generation Disillusioned: at twenty-five years old, she’s saddled with a job she hates, a boyfriend who’s all wrong for her, and a vexing inability to say no. She’s already near her breaking point, so when one caller too many kicks the bucket during Hollie’s 911 shift, she cashes in the Sweethearts’ Spa & Stay gift certificate from her dad and heads to Revelation Cove, British Columbia. One caveat: she’s going solo. Any sweethearts will have to be found on site.

Hollie hopes to find her beloved otters in the wilds of the Great White North, but instead she’s providing comic relief for staff and guests alike. Even Concierge Ryan, a former NHL star with bad knees and broken dreams, can’t stop her from stumbling from one (mis)adventure to another. Just when Hollie starts to think that a change of venue doesn’t mean a change in circumstances, the island works its charm and she starts to think she might have found the rejuvenation she so desperately desires. But then an uninvited guest crashes the party, forcing her to step out of the discomfort zone where she dwells and save the day … and maybe even herself in the process.

Review

Sorry. Batman died. What was I supposed to do, tell his Catwoman to call Robin for help? 

Hollie is a tiresome woman, who works as a 911 dispatcher with some, er, eclectic coworkers, to say the least. She comes home to paramedic boyfriend Keith, who hogs all of the DVR space for his medical shows, brags about his daily activities, thinks he’s a doctor with God-given talent never seen before, and has these horrible, disgusting dogs he treats better than Hollie.

I was the kind of kid at the zoo and aquarium with her head squeezed between the bars or face pressed against the glass trying to get the babies to understand that I love them, that I want to be their friend…

Hollie has a person who dies on her, and she gets a review memo. Her boss is a stuffy, pushy woman. Hollie hates it when people die on her, but she loves it when things turn out OK and callers tell her stories, like life-long loves Mona and Herb. She can’t stand the sight of blood. Her dad keeps pushing her to go further into the medical field. She has a crazy ex-mother and self-made millionaire non-sister who annoys the crud out of her.

All women are like that. We look at each other with the harshest eyes. 

One day, Hollie snaps. She takes the resort vacation her dad has graciously gifted her with – with the idea of Keith purposing in mind. Hollie goes on the trip as a last-ditch effort to jump-starting her life back, to reclaim her person. Little does she know the adventures she will have, the incredible people she will meet, and the ex-NHL hockey hunk who will keep saving her from her misadventures…until he’s the one who needs saving, and Hollie must get over her fears and put her dispatch skills into use.

That’s what I want to do. Retire and become a pirate. 

Hollie’s love for the otter, a symbol that represents her estranged mother, runs deep. She has otter figurines, otter PJs, otter documentaries, but she’s never seen an otter…until her little excursion into the wild with Concierge Ryan. It’s an experience she won’t forget, and it will give you warm fuzzies. 🙂 A great read, with plenty of laughs.

About the Author

Eliza Gordon is a forgetful girl who relies on Post-It notes and cellphone alarms to get her through the day. An avid eater of cookies, she can be found with her hand in the jar when not in her cubicle. A purveyor of fictions, Eliza is confident that the life she lives is merely the imaginings of someone else’s hand, poured from a dull pencil on cafe napkins, and that she is simply an understudy, waiting for her turn to take the stage. She has excellent taste in books, shoes, and friends, and questionable sanity in the realm of love. Best leave that one alone.

Find the author: Website  Facebook | Twitter | PinterestGoodreads

Book Review: The Next Thing on My List

The Next Thing on My List by Jill Smolinski (Shaye Areheart Books, 2007)

cover art
cover art

Genre: fiction,

I received a digital copy via Smashwords in return for an honest review.

After a car accident in which her passenger, Marissa, dies, June Parker finds herself in possession of a list Marissa has written: “20 Things to Do by My 25th Birthday.” The tasks range from inspiring (run a 5K) to daring (go braless) to near-impossible (change someone’s life). 

To assuage her guilt, June races to achieve each goal herself before the deadline, learning more about her own life than she ever bargained for. (Amazon)

I’d only met her the night she died. 

This book has gotten mixed reviews on Goodreads and Amazon. However, I find it quite interesting that reviewers on Amazon didn’t make the same statements (and lower ratings) than those on Goodreads. I think this is due in large part to Amazon being a consumer site for purchasing. Goodreads is straight-up people who enjoy books (and in my opinion, know more about what they’re talking about). I also heard they’ll be turning this into a movie…

This is an incredibly light read, great to take on a trip and a good read for summertime.

First – the promoted reviews of entities (not individuals) doesn’t do this book justice, at all.

June Parker, the main character, is a newbie to a Weight Watchers class – and as she’s leaving fellow classmate Marissa Jones – who just reached her weight goal of losing 100 pounds! – is waiting for the bus. June decides some of Marissa’s luck will rub off on her, and gives her a ride. But it ends in tragedy – Marissa is thrown from the vehicle. June attends the funeral, all bruised and in casts.

The only thing that brought me out of the hole was a soul brave enough to reach in and grab me. 

June is wracked with guilt – mostly, that she lived and Marissa died…and it all stems from a list. Marissa made a list of 20 things she wanted to do before her 25th birthday, and only one item was crossed off. She died before she could cross off “Wear sexy shoes,” June discovered once the items of the scene were returned to her. She gave all of Marissa’s belongings back to her family except for the list, which she doesn’t mention until she bumps into Marissa’s brother, Troy, six months later at her grave.

June admits to keeping the list, and in a panic, spins a heart-felt lie she is then compelled to keep:  complete the items on the list before Marissa’s 25th birthday. In less than six months.

People are living too much or too little, and I wondered if anyone out there is living the right amount.

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Try, try again!

And completing the list proves for June that she was really quite boring and didn’t have an aspirations or direction in her life. She was literally going through the motions, not speaking up at work when her boss steals her ideas to pass off as her own (until they fail!) and letting her co-workers torment and humiliate her. Hell if she’s telling them what she’s trying to do, when they’re accusing her of killing Marissa!

Through trying to complete items on the list, June…

  • establishes better relationships with her coworkers
  • enlists the help of her coworkers to accomplish work tasks and list tasks
  • finds the “perfect” guy – Marissa’s brother, Troy
  • sets out to change some lives – her brother’s and his wife’s, and her Little Sister Deedee
  • gets a backbone, takes charge of work tasks, and sells herself to the big boss Lou
  • finds a relationship with an unlikely person
  • realizes how much Marissa set out to do
  • realizes she had no motivation for anything in life
  • tries…and fails

Some of June’s plans go wrong, some are quite hair-brained, and some of the items are difficult. Who is Buddy Fitch? She enlists the help of her blind date, coworkers, Troy, family and Little Sister to complete the list. There is a lot of sarcasm and humor in doing it all.

I’d already done the finger-counting thing and realized the most sleep I could hope for was five hours.

As I said, this is a quick and light read. I enjoyed it for the sake of reading, but was left unsatisfied. June is only the completing the items on the list for sake of completing them because she LIED to the dead girl’s brother. Way to start off on a good foot. And the big boss, Lou Bigwood, is notoriously known for “finding” good-looking women (dubbed Charlie’s Angels) at conferences to manage his company… seriously, Bigwood? Big wood? Come on!Big-Brother-Big-Sister

Throughout the whole book June makes snarky comments about her parents and her brother, who was obviously the favorite…and yet, she writes a letter “expressing gratitude” to her brother to show how much he means to her. Since rules were set down that actions to complete the items on the list had to be genuine, this one doesn’t count. June failed on that one. She sets out on changing a life by signing up to be a Big Sister – who she parts ways with after a difficult last-minute decision and heartbreak for June’s own brother and his wife.

The thing that made me feel any kind of emotion was an incident between June and Troy. He made it quite clear how he felt about June’s efforts to “change a life” Plan A. And yet, she still crushing on him. NO! If a man can’t deal with a non-life-threatening decision, such as wanting a child on your own terms, kick him six streets down! Troy proves to still be somewhat of a friend, and at times it seems they will reconcile, but June discovers something quite unexpected.

The ending was cheap and bland – I expected much more. The one good thing I liked: June decides it’s time she make her own list.

I knew there was something that I needed even more: the truth. I’d been running from it for a long time, and now it was time to face it. 

Jill is the author of two other novels, Objects of My Affection and Flip-Flopped: A Novel, as well as several how-to origami books.

Readers: if you enjoy bucket lists, check out this excellent blog post. Maybe some of the items on your list will change, maybe some of them will be borrowed or added by others. You never know.

What’s on YOUR list? Check out mine in an up-coming post.

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Novelette Review: Chasing Dolphins

Chasing Dolphins by September Lynn Gray (2012)

cover art
cover art

Genre: fiction

This is a novelette by another new-coming author, September Lynn Gray. She has released two novelettes, and is working toward publishing a novel.

When I first charted a deadline for reading Chasing Dolphins and writing a review, I had no idea it wasn’t a full-fledged novel. (Since embarking on this book blog, I try to steer clear of reading the synopsis about a book just on the off-chance that it forms an opinion and expectation in my mind. The worst thing would be for a synopsis to get my hopes up just to have them crash, and having to include that in a review.) When the “book” just ended – The End – I thought it was a joke.

I find Charlene Brown so eerily familiar. Perhaps because she is somewhat of an embodiment of myself: I am a young female, my name is Charlie (short for Charlie), I have a Dottie (my aunt Debbie), and I can relate to the sexuality that Gray exposes of her character.

Charlene is a character who has experienced emotional and physical loss in so many ways. She grew up being disposed of by loved ones, and she tries to hide from the idea that her stepfather killed her ailing mother while swindling her inheritance and chunkin’ a deuce out of town. She was  raised separately by her uncle and grandmother during school years and summers, respectively. Under the care of both she was sexually molested and either thrown out for it or basically called a liar, again proving that she isn’t really loved and she is an option for her loved ones.

She’s 18 and had to figure out her life completely on her own….and she naturally finds the wrong guy to spend forever with. But out of that bad, abusive relationship she earns some professional skills by being the bread winner, knowing she can do it. And she also gets a pretty cool son out of the deal and a friend from work. She finally leaves after finding her supposed best-friend drying her bed sheets with a hair dryer to get rid of the wet remains of her affair with Charlie’s man. So she packs up and moves on.

She moves on, but she doesn’t change much. She frequents bars, hoping that “[i]f [she] sat there long enough, he’d come. Always, the wrong guy [finds her].” She’s lonely, so she’ll go home with strangers in hopes of finding an emotional connection to feel less lonely. She forces herself to
“form a connection with [another] human being, pretending that his touch meant so much more than it did.”

As a woman, I understand this. Halfway through college I decided guys at Texas State were either taken, gay or just all around douchebags. So I turned to online dating, going through two bad relationships just like Charlene’s encounters with strangers that I thought would develop into more. But one day I had to look in the mirror and realize, “Girl, you are nothing to him.” But there was one in between the two bad that gave me hope, which is why I tried again…and ended up with a dud, again. It took me a long time to realize he (the middle one) was just like the first, with just a little more suave. His sweet-talking skills were eventually wasted on me. He should have used them to get a business or law degree – they would have served him better there. In terms of this area of Charlene’s character, I understand and can actually relate. However, I can’t relate to the sexual abuse – I am thankful and grateful that I never had to experience that, but I know some who have, and it’s not pretty.

Her work friend, Dottie, is a native Texan, and is the kinda gal that always seems to find those rich SOBs who blow exuberant amounts of money on the stupidest things and own multiple luxury vehicles. But she’s hung on to Charlene, and it’s not really clear why.

Dottie believes love is expressed through food. She is always trying to feed Charlene, because it’s what Texans do. We may not have a lot, but we show appreciation and love through food. Dottie reminds me starkly of my aunt Debbie, who can feed you breakfast at 8 am and tries to feed you again at 10:30 am, knowing lunch is at noon. That’s just who she is, and that’s how Dottie is. She thinks food will solve some of Charlene’s poverty and employment problems.

After one of these bar run-ins with a local, Charlene finds herself in deadly need of medical attention, and all of a sudden she turns her life around. The end.

Yep, just like that. The end.

In terms of development of the story line, I find it lacking (even for a novelette). All of a sudden, after a LIFETIME of neglect, bad decisions and bad relationships, she makes a 180 turn for the better? I find the ending quite trite, tying up all the loose ends into pretty little bows. Bows don’t go with this story. Charlene is the kind that doesn’t do bows – she rips them out. A lifetime of abandonment, abuse and sexual molestation can’t be packaged up like a gift basket wrapped in cellophane and ribbons. It’s utterly unrealistic, and I must say it disappointed me greatly.

The other thing I found not to my liking was the story behind the title. At a young age, her stepfather promised a trip to Hawaii that would never happen. Despite all his drinking, disappearing, stealing and general philandering, Charlene still believed that she would go to Hawaii and see dolphins, explaining her insatiable need to see them in Corpus. Usually children of that upbringing realize what to expect and what won’t happen. It just doesn’t add up. But, I do understand Charlene’s need to see dolphins. Perhaps it serves as an assurance that her life is on the right track.

But I do sing praises and accolades to Gray in her message to women in these kinds of situations:

Concentrate on finding ways to create your own happiness, rather than rely on men to validate your existence. 

I’ve tried to have that conversation with a friend who was chain-smoking through boyfriends (and she was trying to have the “get out of this bad relationship” talk with me with the middle boy during the same time period) and it ruined a friendship. It’s a hard conversation to have with someone, especially when you love them. But, you do because you love them. Her message is something young women of today need to hear, as so many are relying on men to make their lives fulfilled and meaningful.

I’m not too interested in Gray’s other novelette, Lights and Tunnels (2014) but I am piqued to see what she does with a full-length novel.