TLC book tour

I read Hearts on a String in two sittings – more or less. The publisher’s summary is below this review, but it’s a bit misleading – as was the prologue – because the novel really doesn’t find its focal point – Holly – until the last 1/4 of the book, if that.

It’s an easy read. And it’s the type of light beach fiction that travels well because, if taken in short bites, the story is repetitious enough to not require the reader to have to go back and try to figure out who everyone is and what each woman’s issues are.

But it’s really convoluted. The plot twists in ways that strained my ability to put aside disbelief. Beginning with a freak, nationwide spring storm that traps five strangers in a luxury Florida hotel suite was hard enough for me to buy, but through in psychics, the FBI, an insider trading scandal and a serial rapist – and I barely had time to swallow one implausibility before being handed the another.

Which is exactly neither here nor there as this type of story is fairly well-received anymore in movies and on television, but the tipping point for me was the man bashing and the stereotyping of women in terms of their relationships and lives. Am I the only married woman in North America who isn’t a desperate housewife? Because the novel is premised on the idea that women are leading quiet lives of desperation ala Betty Freidan. Which, I don’t buy, but I know the idea sells, so perhaps I am not only an anomaly but a freak as well.

If you can get past the first 5 or 6 chapters – which is about how long it takes for the author to set the story up and that’s too long for me – it picks up steam, and the characters start to show more than tell.

Which is my other problem with the book, it tells and tells and tells and by the time it starts showing, readers could easily have put the book down.

There are a lot of strengths. The basic concept of women being stranded and bonding is a good one, and the characters are actually engaging on their own or in pairs, but the lot of the women is a hard one”and women must band together to be free (the latter of which I don’t necessarily disagree with) themes are wielded like blunt instruments, and after a while I was “okay, already, just tell the story”.

I wanted this to be a better novel than it was, which is why I stuck with it. I kept hoping that the screw-ball semi-dramedy/mystery adventure idea would pan into something. It never really does. But I need to emphasis that I am not someone who would pick up “women’s literature” as they now call chick lit without prodding or it being recommended to me. If you are looking for light vacation fare, this could well be your book, so please take a peek at the info below and check out at least one other review. Personally, I never take the word of just one reviewer because reading material is one of those highly personal things and taste, as we all should know by now, is subjective.

About Hearts on a String

Paperback: 336 pages

Publisher: Bantam; Original edition (May 25, 2010)

Hearts on a String delves deeply into the emotions of five very different women who are thrown together by chance-only to discover that they have more in common than they ever could have imagined.

Holly Blandeen has always cherished the story her grandmother told her about the thread that connects all women, tying them forever in sisterhood. It’s a beautiful idea, but with all the curveballs life has thrown her way, Holly has often felt isolated, different from other women. That starts to change when she meets four strangers in an airport and they agree to share a luxury hotel suite because a powerful spring storm is barreling across the country, stranding travelers from California to Florida.

What begins as a spur-of-the-moment decision becomes an unlikely, unexpected, and sometimes reluctant exercise in female bonding, as these five exceptional women-each at a crossroads-swap stories, share secrets, and seek answers to the questions they’ve been asking about life, love, and the path to true happiness. A storm may have grounded them for the moment, but after this wild adventure in which anything can and does happen, they’ll never have to fly solo again.

“Kris Radish creates characters that seek and then celebrate the discovery of . . . women’s innate power.”—Denver Post

About Kris Radish

Hearts on a String is Kris Radish’s 7th book. Her Bantam Dell novels THE ELEGANT GATHERING OF WHITE SNOWS, DANCING NAKED AT THE EDGE OF DAWN and ANNIE FREEMAN’S FABULOUS TRAVELING FUNERAL have been on the bestseller and Book Sense 76 Selection lists. She also writes two weekly nationally syndicated columns.  Ms. Radish lives and works in the San Francisco Bay area.

Connect with Kris:

On her website

On Twitter

On Facebook

On her blog

Kris Radish’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, July 5th:  Joyfully Retired

Wednesday, July 7th:  Sashay Magazine

Thursday, July 9th:  Scraps of Life

Monday, July 12th:  Crazy for Books

Wednesday, July 14th:  Simply Stacie

Thursday, July 15th:  Rundpinne

Friday, July 16th:  A Bookish Way of Life

Monday, July 19th:  Reading at the Beach

Tuesday, July 20th:  Lit and Life

Monday, July 26th:  Anniegirl1138

Tuesday, July 27th:  Luxury Reading

Wednesday, July 28th:  Along the Way

Monday, August 2nd:  My Random Acts of Reading

Wednesday, August 4th:  One Person’s Journey Through a World of Books

Monday, August 16th:  Peeking Between the Pages

I was asked to read and review Jeffrey Zaslow’s best-selling book, The Girls from Ames because I grew up in Iowa. Ames is in Iowa. It’s near dead center of the state, about an hour from the city of Des Moines, where I lived for twenty years, and the home of my late husband’s alma mater – Iowa State University.

Ames is also the site of Mary Greeley hospital where Dee was conceived in a petri dish and where many of the Ames Girls were born. Of course, they were born, grown and mothers, most of them, long before I ever needed to venture to Ames.

Lisa, of TLC Book Tours, thought I might have a unique perspective on this quasi-memoir that follows the friendship of a group of girls from near infancy to middle-age. Well, I am middle-aged and from Iowa. I also was a child in the 1960’s and a teen in the mid to late 1970’s. Like the women in the book, I navigated the murky career, relationship and social waters of the 1980’s when much was expected and little was offered by way of advice from those who came just before us.

And I found myself nodding a lot because many of the girls reminded me of girls I knew and of situations that were (and still are) common when growing up female in North America.

But the Ames girls were people I would have known of but not been friends with myself. They were – as my seven-year old would say – “a clique” and a fairly exclusive one at that. Pretty, popular, financially privileged, they moved in circles that were off-limits and invitation only. Unless you were a girl like that yourself, your knowledge was based on rumors and hearsay, so it was interesting to know that they angsted like the rest of us and were unsure and actually got into trouble when they deserved to.

Zaslow discovered the Ames girls via a column he writes for The Wall Street Journal. He spent time with them and writes their memoir in a one girl at a time style that manages to chronicle all eleven of the women through to their mid-40’s. I could have done without his commentary or the tidbits he throws in about studies on this or that girl or woman issue because the stories themselves are much more interesting, and women in general don’t need to be told what our issues are.

The book is 360 pages with an updated Afterword, but is a quick, engaging read.

Below is a list of other reviews, you might want to check out or you could check out an earlier sneak peek review I wrote in March, and you can read an excerpt here.

Jeffrey Zaslow’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Wednesday, April 14th: Simply Stacie

Thursday, April 15th: Silver and Grace

Friday, April 16th: Chaotic Compendiums

Monday, April 19th: Rundpinne

Tuesday, April 20th: Luxury Reading

Wednesday, April 21st: Book Nook Club

Thursday, April 22nd: Suko’s Notebook

Monday, April 26th: Feminist Review

Tuesday, April 27th: Beth’s Book Reviews

Wednesday, April 28th: Bookworm with a View

Thursday, April 29th: She Reads and Reads

Friday, April 30th: Book Blab

Monday, May 3rd: Cafe of Dreams

Tuesday, May 4th: Janel’s Jumble

Wednesday, May 5th: Anniegirl1138

Thursday, May 6th: Peeking Between the Pages

Monday, May 10th: One Person’s Journey Through a World of Books

Tuesday, May 11th: Life in the Thumb

Wednesday, May 12th: lit*chick

Read Shawn Klomparens’ latest novel, Two Years, No Rain over the the weekend. It clocks in at 370 pages, which is about a hundred pages or so past my comfort range these days. I prefer shorter works because they are usually sweeter in terms of tight editing and lack of meandering, but despite the length, it was a fast read.

It’s the story of Andy Dunne, a mid-thirties weatherman adrift in life and, though fully aware of this, not doing much about it. It’s a chick-lit theme. Lack of direction collides with outside catalyst and suddenly characters find themselves moving on from the circumstances that have held them almost without their active permission.

The narrative is not burdensome. Komparens doesn’t feel the need to describe setting and characters to inertia. He uses dialogue to reveal, but unfortunately he sometimes uses it to recap events the main character hasn’t any access to as he is a first person narrator. He inserts back story rather deftly in some points but not swiftly enough in others. The first three chapters were slow,  but not to the point of interest loss on my part, though I began to get a bit impatient for the story to begin.

It reads like most books in the genre except the sex is less flowery which in my opinion was a plus. I found the main character and his love interest spot on if one believes that Gen X’rs are self-involved yet self-unaware.

Andy’s wife has left him. He has been involved in a serious emotional affair with a co-worker for two years. And he is on the verge of being made redundant. This is the first three chapters with a dead brother and an assortment of secondary characters thrown in to round things out. Suddenly, Andy is offered a chance to become the star of a Blue’s Clues like kiddie show and the story is off and running in fairly predictable rom-com fashion, heavy on drama and light on giggles.

It reminded me of Ross and Rachel, but the later years not the early ones.

I don’t know what I think about men writing chick lit, but at least the sex is not metaphorical. Bottom line? It’s not feel good. These are two married people choosing to cheat rather than be grown ups and work on their relationships. It’s hard to root for that. But it is realistic because it mirrors what relationships have become for many in our society, Disney happily ever after or NEXT. It was also hard to see what Andy was in love with because his love interest, Hillary, doesn’t get a fleshing out until too late in the story for most readers to still be wondering enough to care. And ultimately, that was the problem. There are clues and clues and no reveal. Bread crumbs should lead somewhere before the birds eat them all up.

But do remember, I am one reader/reviewer. Check out the links below before making up your own mind.

Check out Shawn’s website HERE.

Follow Shawn on Twitter.

Shawn Klomparens TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Tuesday, July 7th: Book, Line, and Sinker

Monday, July 13th: Peeking Between the Pages

Wednesday, July 15th: Anniegirl1138

Friday, July 17th: Bermuda Onion

Tuesday, July 21st:  Suko’s Notebook

Wednesday, July 22nd: Stephanie’s Confessions of a Book-a-holic

Monday, July 27th:  Life In The Thumb

Wednesday, July 29th: Cindy’s Love of Books

Thursday, July 30th: Raging Bibliomania

Monday, August 3rd: Chic Book Chick

Tuesday, August 4th:  Planet Books

Monday, August 10th: Bookworm with a View

Wednesday, August 12th:  Starting Fresh

Thursday, August 13th:  Pop Culture Junkie

Tuesday, August 18th: Books on the Brain – Summer Reading Series

Thursday, August 20th: Book-a-Rama