Sunday, February 26, 2017

2017 Backlist Reader Challenge: February Roundup

I'm making pretty good progress on my titles for the 2017 Backlist Reader Challenge.  Here are my mini-reviews for February!

After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid (2014)

Lauren and Ryan decide to take a year off from their marriage to decide if they can salvage their relationship.

I love stories about marriage and relationships, because they make me think about my own life.  I was immediately drawn into this novel because Lauren and Ryan met at the age of 19 in college, which is when and how I met my husband, as well. 

The book mainly focuses on Lauren's journey; we see snippets of Ryan's through draft emails he has written to Lauren.  I liked Lauren as a main character, but I think I liked the supporting characters around her more.  We got to know her family really well, and they show Lauren that marriage is not the only type of relationship out there.

Like Reid's Forever, Interrupted, this story brings up a lot of thought-provoking issues.  When you've vowed to love someone forever, what happens if you fall out of love?  How hard should you try to get it back?  Is it inevitable that romance will fade over the years?  Why are we sometimes so afraid to ask our partners, the person we share everything with, for what we really want or need?

The story is very readable, honest, and relatable.  It's more contemplative than action-filled, so sometimes it felt a bit slow, but overall I really enjoyed it!  4 stars

A Rule Against Murder by Louise Penny (2008)

Book 4 in the Inspector Gamache series, in which Inspector Gamache and his wife vacation at an inn, along with a family there for a reunion.  Gamache is drawn into the family when someone is found dead.

This installment of the series is a little different in that it takes place outside of Three Pines, but no worries - a couple of Three Pines residents end up being part of the family coming together for the reunion.

Penny's writing is, as always, cozy, comforting, and warm (even though it's a murder mystery).  The murder almost seemed secondary to me in this one, with the focus more on a character study of the family and their drama.  There were no likable members of this family; they purposely say and do things to hurt one another.

We also got to know Gamache a bit better.  I love his relationship with his wife and their banter.  Penny worked in information about Gamache's past, particularly his parents, which was interesting but also felt a tiny bit shoe-horned.

The murder "how" was quite ingenious, although the "why" was a bit weak.  Looking forward to the next installment!  4 stars

The End of Normal: A Wife's Anguish, A Widow's New Life by Stephanie Madoff Mack (2011)

A memoir by the daughter-in-law of Bernie Madoff, telling her side of the story of finding out about Madoff's Ponzi scheme and the family's reaction, including her husband Mark's suicide.

Mack gives an intimate look at how the Madoff family imploded after Bernie was arrested and convicted.  It was difficult to read how Bernie's sons' lives were ruined, even though they had nothing to do with their father's crimes, but what was worse was how their family was torn apart at a time when they could have come together as victims of the deceit.  Even their mother was no longer welcome in Stephanie's home, because of how she seemingly chose her husband over her children.

Unfortunately, I didn't feel the sympathy for Stephanie that I think she was seeking when she wrote this book.  It is devastating that she lost her husband and their children lost their father.  However, she often came across as self-centered and spoiled.  At times she seemed to focus too much on how Bernie's crimes personally affected her, instead of how her husband was coping with the betrayal.  She claims they had a perfect life before the scandal, but there were obviously big issues in their life, including a difficult relationship with Mark's ex-wife.  Stephanie talks about other family members in the book, but includes details which I felt were unnecessary and hurtful.  Also, her constant references to every little thing she was buying when she should have been carefully watching her money was off-putting.  3 stars.


  1. Yay for making good progress on the challenge!! I loved After I Do and glad you enjoyed it. Great reviews!!


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