Synopsis An enchanting first novel about love, madness, and Kenny G.
The Silver Linings Playbook is the riotous and poignant story of how one man regains his memory and comes to terms with the magnitude of his wife’s betrayal.
During the years he spends in a neural health facility, Pat Peoples formulates a theory about silver linings: he believes his life is a movie produced by God, his mission is to become physically fit and emotionally supportive, and his happy ending will be the return of his estranged wife, Nikki.
When Pat goes to live with his parents, everything seems changed: no one will talk to him about Nikki; his old friends are saddled with families; the Philadelphia Eagles keep losing, making his father moody; and his new therapist seems to be recommending adultery as a form of therapy.
When Pat meets the tragically widowed and clinically depressed Tiffany, she offers to act as a liaison between him and his wife, if only he will give up watching football, agree to perform in this year’s Dance Away Depression competition, and promise not to tell anyone about their “contract.” All the while, Pat keeps searching for his silver lining.
In this brilliantly written debut novel, Matthew Quick takes us inside Pat’s mind, deftly showing us the world from his distorted yet endearing perspective. The result is a touching and funny story that helps us look at both depression and love in a wonderfully refreshing way.
My Review After the movie got such rave reviews, I knew I needed to read, or in this case listen to, the book before seeing the movie. I’ll admit, I had a tough time picture Bradley Cooper in the role of Pat Peoples, but I’m anxious to see him portray the troubled character. I had no trouble at all picturing Jennifer Lawrence as the dark and foul-mouthed Tiffany though. I didn’t want to have an expectations going into this story, so I never read the synopsis. I had no idea what the story was about. From the opening lines, I was sucked into Pat’s story. I had no idea what happened to him, why he was in “the bad place”, or even who Nikki was at first.
I never doubted that narrator, Ray Porter, was Pat. He so thoroughly became the character, realistically portraying emotions, doing amazing accents and voicing other characters, I became lost in the story and forgot I was listening to someone read a book rather than watching a movie. Matthew Quick’s debut novel is impressive, filled with well-developed characters, rich descriptions, and intense emotions that kept me riveted.
This is primarily a story about a man struggling with mental health. His overarching goal is to end “apart time” with his wife, Nikki, and show her how he’s become a better man. He knows she likes strong men, so he works out to the extreme, running, weight lifting, and doing sit-ups until he’s massively bulked-up and fit. It’s clear from the beginning that in addition to emotional issues, he’s got some mental problems. After being released from “the bad place”, he moves in with his parents and slowly pieces his life back together. He resumes relationships with his brother, his best childhood friend, and his mother, although his father is aloof. Through his friend, Ronny, he meets Tiffany, Ronny’s sister-in-law, and the two strike up an odd relationship that transforms both of them in unexpected ways. All of this unfolds against the backdrop of the Philadelphia Eagles football season, with the events ebbing and flowing with the wins and losses of the Eagles.
Characters The characters are simply amazing. Every single character, no matter how unimportant their role, comes across as three-dimensional, nuanced, and deep. Pat is exceptionally well done as is Tiffany. Pat’s parents, his therapist, even his friends. This is primarily a character-driven story, which is great, because the characters are living, breathing entities.
What Didn’t Work for Me 1. The pacing. At times, the pacing was too slow. Many events seemed to happen over and over and didn’t feel as if they were moving the story forward, but I was engaged enough, I was easily able to overlook them.
2. The ending. It felt rushed and almost incomplete. Although it wrapped up all the loose ends, I wanted just a little more.
What I Enjoyed About The Silver Linings Playbook
1. The characters. They are so thoroughly well developed, they easily carried the story through some of the slower sections.
2. Tiffany. I instantly loved her. Maybe it’s because she and I share the same vocabulary, but something about her just really struck a chord with me, and I was rooting for her right along with Pat.
3. Football. As an 18-year season ticket holder with the San Diego Chargers, I could really relate so much to the excitement of the games, rooting for your team, having a favorite player, and how a good or bad game can make or break your mood for days.
4. The narration. Narrator, Ray Porter, was phenomenal, bringing the characters to life. I’d listen to anything he narrates.
5. The themes. I love the idea of finding your own silver lining in any situation. Recently diagnosed with breast cancer, I’m constantly looking for silver linings every day. And finding them.
Bottom Line The Silver Linings Playbook is the story of mental illness, but also about hope and finding your own silver linings.
About the Audiobook
Title: The Silver Linings Playbook Author: Matthew Quick Release Date: October 9th 2008 Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc. Narrators: Ray Porter Length: 7 Hours 22 Minutes Genre: Contemporary Romance/Mental Health Story Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars Audio Production Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars Links: Goodreads | Audible | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Author Matthew Quick
About the Author Matthew Quick is the New York Times bestselling author of THE SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK, which was made into an Oscar-winning film; THE GOOD LUCK OF RIGHT NOW; LOVE MAY FAIL; and three young adult novels: SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR; BOY21; and FORGIVE ME, LEONARD PEACOCK. His work has been translated into more than thirty languages, received a PEN/Hemingway Award Honorable Mention, was an LA Times Book Prize finalist, a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice, a #1 bestseller in Brazil, and selected by Nancy Pearl as one of Summer’s Best Books for NPR. EVERY EXQUISITE THING will be published in 2016. All of his books have been optioned for film.
Matthew spent the first few years of his life in Philadelphia before being raised just across the Delaware River in Oaklyn, New Jersey. He graduated from Collingswood High School (class of 1992) and La Salle University (class of 1996), where he double-majored in English and secondary education. He taught high school literature and film in southern New Jersey for several years, during which he coached soccer and basketball, chaperoned trips to Peru and Ecuador, initiated a pen-pal exchange with students in Namibia, and counseled troubled teens.
In 2004 Matthew made the difficult decision to leave teaching and write full time. He received his Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Goddard College in 2007 and an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from La Salle University in 2013. He lives with his wife, novelist/pianist Alicia Bessette, on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
Synopsis On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary.
Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge.
Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior.
Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?
My Review I got the unabridged version of this book from Audible. All 19 hours and 11 minutes worth. At times, I loved the story and took the long way to and from my destination, or lapped the block one more time to continue listening. Other times, I hated it, chose music over audiobooks for months at a time. It took me nearly ten months to finish it. What I can’t deny is that Gillian Flynn is a hell of a writer. The story is intriguing, captivating, unnerving. The audiobook production is among the best I’ve ever listened to, and I listen to a lot of audiobooks. The narrators are talented and brought the characters to life. And what characters they are. Complex, deep, fully three-dimensional, and unfortunately, utterly loathsome.
I absolutely salivated over the brilliant writing of Gillian Flynn, took notes, wished I could write like that. The story was engaging at times, difficult to read at others. The pacing was slow in spots, and those were the times I felt myself less inclined to listen for awhile. At other times, it was fast, riveting. At no point did I figure out what was going to happen next. The plot twists are inspired. So with all of this going for it, why couldn’t I give it five stars? The book left me unsettled, and not in the way a good thriller does. It left me feeling ambivalent toward all the characters, as in I don’t really care what happens to them. In some ways, I wish I’d never read about them. And the ending was flat, not living up to the expectations the author set with her amazing plotting throughout.
The plotting was fantastic. There were so many twists and turns and unexpected surprises. Gillian Flynn is a master of pre-shadowing. Everything that happens has a purpose that may not become clear until a long time later, but her method of storytelling ensures even the smallest detail is memorable.
Characters The characters are well developed, believable, stunningly crafted. Even the smallest character was thoroughly developed. I just didn’t care for any of them. Didn’t care what happened to them, and still don’t. But they will not soon be forgotten.
What Didn’t Work for Me 1. The ending. I absolutely despised how it just ended in a way that felt unfinished. Sometimes, I wonder if maybe it went on longer than necessary, other times, I think it stopped too soon. I just know it feels unfinished and not in a “sequel is coming” kind of way.
2. The characters. Man, I hate them all, with the exception of maybe Margo and Boney. I can’t deny the characters are three-dimensional and wholly realistic. The world is full of people who are difficult or impossible to like. But in the end, I had no one to root for in Gone Girl.
What I Enjoyed About Gone Girl
1. The writing. Flawless, beautiful prose underlies a dark mystery with contemptible characters.
2. The plot twists. There were so many of them and they were so perfectly woven in, they were nearly seamless.
3. The narration. Both voice actors were amazing. This is one of the best audiobook productions I’ve ever listened to.
4. The character development. Yes, I loathe them, but they are so well crafted, I have to remind myself they’re fictional.
5. Attention to detail. The vivid writing made the scenes come alive in my mind as I listened. In some ways, I feel as if I watched a movie.
Bottom Line Gone Girl is a disturbing tale, beautifully written, and the audiobook version is one of the best produced I’ve ever listened to.
About the Audiobook
Title: Gone Girl Author: Gillian Flynn Release Date: May 24, 2012 Publisher: Random House Audible Narrators: Julia Whelan andKirby Heyborne Length: 19 Hours 11 Minutes Genre: Contemporary Mystery/Thriller/Suspense Story Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars Audio Production Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars Links: Goodreads | Audible | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Author Gillian Flynn
About the Author Gillian Flynn is an American author and television critic for Entertainment Weekly. She has so far written three novels, Sharp Objects, for which she won the 2007 Ian Fleming Steel Dagger for the best thriller; Dark Places; and her best-selling third novel Gone Girl.
Her book has received wide praise, including from authors such as Stephen King. The dark plot revolves around a serial killer in a Missouri town, and the reporter who has returned from Chicago to cover the event. Themes include dysfunctional families,violence and self-harm.
In 2007 the novel was shortlisted for the Mystery Writers of America Edgar for Best First Novel by an American Writer, Crime Writers’ Association Duncan Lawrie, CWA New Blood and Ian Fleming Steel Daggers, winning in the last two categories.
Flynn, who lives in Chicago, grew up in Kansas City, Missouri. She graduated at the University of Kansas, and qualified for a Master’s degree from Northwestern University.
Synopsis Her story began long before she started working at The Sky Launch…
Screw fairytales. The only reward Gwen Anders got from her rough childhood was a thick skin and hard heart. She’s content with her daily grind managing a top NYC nightclub—Eighty-Eighth Floor. So hers isn’t a happily ever after. She doesn’t believe in those anyway.
Then she meets J.C.
The rich, smooth talking playboy is the sexiest thing that Gwen has ever encountered, but she’s not interested in a night-in-shining latex. But when a family tragedy pushes her to the brink, it’s J.C. who’s there to teach her a new method of survival, one based on following primal urges and desires. His no-strings-attached lessons require her to abandon her constant need for control. Her carefully built walls are obliterated.
Gwen discovers there’s a beautiful world outside her prison. Freedom is exhilarating—and terrifying. When she starts to feel something for J.C., she fears for her heart. Especially as she realizes that he has secrets of his own. Secrets that don’t want to set him free.
BOOK ONE OF TWO. This series can be read alone or with the Fixed Trilogy.
My Review It took me longer than normal to get into this story. In fact I was on the fence for nearly two-thirds of it. Anyone who follows my reviews knows I like my romances with a healthy dose of angst and there wasn’t much happening early on. And if I can’t have angst, I need something else to drive my interest. Free Me definitely gets there, but it took until about Chapter 15 to reach that point for me. That said, Laurelin Paige’s writing is strong, it’s just my personal preferences in story telling. And as I said, the story did reach the point where I didn’t want to put it down.
I think my biggest problem early on was that I didn’t care for the two main characters. Like at all. Gwen came off as spineless, needy, and in desperate need of a healthy dose of self esteem. J.C. came across as arrogant, controlling, douche-baggy. So their relationship was something I didn’t really care much for. Sure, the sex was hot, but that wasn’t enough to make me care. Then something happens and Gwen finds the inner strength I never knew she possessed, and J.C. transformed into a pretty good guy. Suddenly I cared about both of them and what happened to them.
Its also possible my issues with the characters are a result of the narration. I might have had a different reaction to them had I read the book instead of listened to it. Narrator, Tanya Eby, has a sultry, sexy voice and injects enough emotion, but I think her inflections turned me off to Gwen. And I think the way she voiced J.C. made him come across as less sexy and more arrogant than maybe the author intended.
The plot centers around the relationship between Gwen and J.C. Gwen is uptight and in need of of J.C.’s particular skills, and J.C. just wants to sleep with Gwen. They forge a no-strings-attached physical relationship. What could possibly go wrong? In order to maintain the emotional distance necessary for this to work, they agree to not reveal anything about themselves except their first names. But life has a funny way of not staying on the sidelines, and things get messy when feelings develop. The subplotting revolves around the back stories of J.C. and Gwen, the reasons they are who they are, and how they became people who would agree to settle for a strictly physical relationship.
The back stories are doled out slowly, like a fisherman letting out line, teasing us, luring us further into the story. It was this deft plotting that kept me going, even when I was convinced I didn’t care about the characters or what happened to them. And just when I thought I had it all figured out, the author threw in a twist I never saw coming.
Characters Although I initially didn’t care much for the characters, they grew on me. The development that Laurelin Paige does, took me from apathy to actually caring about them, hoping they could finally get their shit together. Both the main characters have deep-seated issues that are so ingrained in who they are, I finally understood them. I think there is something so real and human about that. Every one of us has a story that tells the tale of who we are. The fact that the author could get me from loathing, to simply not caring, to wanting them to be happy was pretty brilliant when I think about it.
The world the story is set in is the nightclub scene of New York City. And while the setting is important to the story, it’s not heavy on world building. Since many of the scenes take place inside a hotel suite, it could easily have been set in any metropolitan city without impacting the story.
Top Five Things I Enjoyed About Free Me
1. Siblings. The relationship between Norma, Gwen, and Ben felt real, it was the way siblings should interact with one another.
2. Plot twists. I love when an author can totally stun me.
3. Piano sex. It may or may not be a fantasy of mine.
4. The last third of the book. It was intense and impossible to put down.
5. The epilogue. It really piqued my interest in the next book.
It started off slow for me but slowly built into a solid story that left me wanting more.
Disclaimer I was provided with a copy of this audiobook by the author in exchange for an honest review.
About the Audiobook
Title: Free Me Series: The Found Duet #1 Author: Laurelin Paige Narrator: Tanya Eby Release Date: February 24, 2015 Length: 10 hours and 7 minutes Genre: Contemporary Erotic Romance Story Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars Audio Production Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Audible
Author Laurelin Paige
About the Author Laurelin Paige is the NY Times and USA Today Bestselling Author of the Fixed Trilogy.
She’s a sucker for a good romance and gets giddy anytime there’s kissing, much to the embarrassment of her three daughters. Her husband doesn’t seem to complain, however.
When she isn’t reading or writing sexy stories, she’s probably singing, watching Mad Men and the Walking Dead, or dreaming of Adam Levine.
Synopsis The creative writing teacher, the delivery guy, the local Starbucks baristas, his best friend, her roommate, and the squirrel in the park all have one thing in common—they believe that Gabe and Lea should get together. Lea and Gabe are in the same creative writing class. They get the same pop culture references, order the same Chinese food, and hang out in the same places.
Unfortunately, Lea is reserved, Gabe has issues, and despite their initial mutual crush, it looks like they are never going to work things out. But somehow even when nothing is going on, something is happening between them, and everyone can see it. Their creative writing teacher pushes them together. The baristas at Starbucks watch their relationship like a TV show. Their bus driver tells his wife about them. The waitress at the diner automatically seats them together. Even the squirrel who lives on the college green believes in their relationship.
Surely Gabe and Lea will figure out that they are meant to be together….
My Review A Little Something Different lives up to its name. A romance told from everyone’s point of view EXCEPT the two involved in the romance was different enough for me to give it a try. I don’t know that it necessarily worked for me. The writing is crisp and the characters interesting, but I just never felt invested in Gabe and Lea’s relationship. I couldn’t even figure out why anyone else, other than the best friend and brother, cared either. Maybe it’s because I never got their point of view, that I never really connected with either of them.
And while neither Gabe nor Lea is particularly all that likeable, the rest of the cast, those who narrate the story of Gabe and Lea, were so interesting, I couldn’t help but continue on. I listened to the audiobook and it’s narrated by two different voiceover actors. I thought Will Damron did a great job. He had a wonderful way of inflecting the different personalities into each of his characters. But Amy Rubinate sounded the same with every point of view. To me, they all sounded like Inga.
The plot isn’t all that complex and there isn’t really a lot of character growth, and yet it’s an enjoyable read/listen. The plot is the love story between Gabe and Lea as told by everyone around them. Gabe is painfully shy and awkward and Lea is odd and reserved. It’s basically a match made to fail, and yet through the help of overly-interested third parties, they manage to get together enough to talk and allow a weird romance to sort of bud, wither on the vine, and slowly eek out an existence.
Characters The characters are what make this book worth reading. Not Gabe and Lea, but the others. First there is “Call me Inga,” the overly-invested creative writing teacher with an obsession, bordering on psychotic, for getting these two together. She likes to play matchmaker with a different set of students every semester, and this year she’s decided Gabe and Lea are her “it” couple.
Then there’s Victor, the reluctant creative writing classmate. He’s witty, hysterical, and easily my favorite character. Charlotte is the glib Starbucks barista with a chip on her shoulder. I was really pulling for Victor and Charlotte to get together in the end. There’s also Inga’s wife, a bus driver, Gabe’s brother, Sam, who I also adored, Casey, Gabe’s best friend, and Lea’s roommate, Maribelle. There’s also the bench and the squirrel, but neither of those POVs added anything to plot or characterization, so I’m not even sure why they were included.
There is little to no world building. It’s a generic college campus in a generic town that gets cold and snows in the winter, and there’s very little scene setting. I don’t know that it needs much in the way of world building, but I would have liked a little more environmental descriptions of the various settings.
Top Five Things I Enjoyed About A Little Something Different
1. The variety. The various points of view were a riot and made the story more interesting.
2. Victor. Absolutely loved Victor. When he talked about wanting to jab a fork in his eye, I laughed out loud.
3. Charlotte. Her acerbic wit made her one of the more memorable narrators.
4. Sam. He is such a loyal, caring brother, but still a totally cool dude. I would have loved a little Sam/Maribelle romance.
5. Will Damron’s narration. He does a great job differentiating the character voices.
Bottom Line A Little Something Differentis different and an enjoyable read. It’s not deep or thought-provoking, but if you’re looking for some light entertainment, it hits the spot.
About the Audiobook
Title: A Little Something Different Author: Sandy Hall Release Date: August 25, 2014 Publisher: SwoonReads Narrators: Amy Rubinate and Will Damron Length: 5 Hours 27 Minutes Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance Story Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars Audio Production Rating: 2.5 out of 5 Stars Links: Goodreads | Audible | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Crossing the Ice (Ice Series #1) by Jennifer Comeaux
Synopsis Falling hard never felt so good.
Pair skaters Courtney and Mark have one shot left at their Olympic dream. They vow not to let anything get in their way, especially not Josh and Stephanie, the wealthy and talented brother and sister team.
The heart doesn’t always listen to reason, though…
The more time Courtney spends with sweet, shy Josh, the harder she falls for him. But they are on opposite sides of the competition, and their futures are headed in opposite directions. Will their friendship blossom into more or are their paths too different to cross?
My Review I had no expectations heading into this. I knew it was a romance set on the ice and that was good enough for me. I ended up really enjoying it. I listened to the audiobook and found reasons to take extra walks during the day so I could listen to more. The narrator, Emily Stokes, does a really good job. There were a few technical issues in Chapter 5 that should have been edited out, and other than the little kid voices she does that grated on my nerves, I thought the production was top notch.
Courtney and Mark are pairs skaters with their sights set on the Olympics. Josh and Stephanie are their competition. So when Courtney and Josh develop feelings for each other, things are going to get interesting. And they do. Jennifer Comeaux creates sexual tension with the best romance writers. The chemistry between Josh and Court is palpable.
The story has two main plots — the skating competition and the romance — and both are done really well. The pacing is slow in a few spots, but for the most part, it’s a compelling tale of love and skating. About the only thing that didn’t work for me was the lack of sex. No, I don’t need steamy sex in a new adult novel. In fact, I’m okay if all the sex takes place off the page. But I had a hard time buying that it didn’t even happen there. Or anywhere. These are young, vibrant, attractive people with healthy sex drives and no real compelling reasons not to engage in a physical relationship. I could have bought into a religious, or any deeply held belief, that kept them chaste. However, that unbelievable aspect didn’t keep me from enjoying this otherwise angst-ridden tale.
Both plots are strong. The competition was intense and I felt like I was right there with them, battling for a place on the Olympic team. The romance was equally well done, with the push and pull of a forbidden love that is meant to be. There were several subplots, including Josh’s relationship with his parents and Courtney’s college plans, that were woven into the main plots seamlessly.
Characters Courtney was fantastic. I love that she’s not perfect. She’s flawed in the best of ways that only makes her more human. And Josh is sweet and sensitive. It’s refreshing to read about a male lead who isn’t an alpha male yet still comes across as incredibly sexy. His vulnerability only adds to his attractiveness. I haven’t read any other books by Jennifer Comeaux, but I get the feeling that Em and Sergei were developed in an earlier novel, yet their characters are fully developed here.
Steph, Josh’s sister, is the only character I felt came across as stereotypical, but it fit the plot, so I’m not going to complain too much. And I do like that she didn’t change to become someone more likeable. Her role as the antagonist served a purpose and she does it well.
For someone who has never skated competitively, Jennifer Comeaux creates an incredibly believable world. Her descriptions are detailed and the world comes alive through the narration.
Top Five Things I Enjoyed About Crossing the Ice
1. Emily Stokes narration is really well done with only a few exceptions. I love the way she brought emotion and personality to the characters and the story through tone and inflection.
2. The skating details brought me into the heart of the story and made me feel as if I was on the ice with them.
3. Mrs. Cassar (although I’m not sure if that’s spelled correctly) is a hoot, and I loved listening to the way the narrator brought her to life.
4. So many of the locations were familiar to me, Los Angeles, Staples Center, Provincetown, it was easy to visualize them.
5. The big competition didn’t turn out the way I thought it would. It was a twist I never saw coming and was deliciously refreshing.
Bottom Line Crossing the Ice is a sweet new adult romance set in the world of competitive pairs figure skating. The audiobook is high quality and the narration is superb.
Disclaimer I was provided with a copy of this audiobook by the author in exchange for an honest review.
About the Audiobook
Title: Crossing the Ice Series: Ice Series #1 Author: Jennifer Comeaux Narrator: Emily Stokes Release Date: August 3, 2014 Length: 9 hours and 5 minutes Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance Story Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars Audio Production Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars Links: Goodreads | Audible | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo
Author Jennifer Comeaux
About the Author Jennifer Comeaux is a tax accountant by day, writer by night.
There aren’t any ice rinks near her home in south Louisiana, but she’s a diehard figure skating fan and loves to write stories of romance set in the world of competitive skating. One of her favorite pastimes is travelling to competitions, where she can experience all the glitz and drama that inspire her writing.
Jenniferloves to hear from readers! Visit jennifercomeaux.blogspot.com for contact information and to learn more about her books.