Book review: ‘What Came First’ by Carol Snow

In their quest to become mothers, three women find their lives intersecting in unexpected ways in this novel of family — the ones we have, the ones we create — and love.

Carol Snow’s What Came First follows Laura, Vanessa and Wendy as they grapple with issues both familiar and foreign to many mothers. Laura and her bright, kind-hearted son, Ian, love their lives in suburban California. Born after Laura’s visit to a sperm bank nearly a decade before, the two-unit family would like nothing more than to welcome a third . . . but Laura, perpetually single, isn’t sure how to make that happen. Posting on a website designed to link families who may have conceived children from the same sperm donor, she eventually “meets” Wendy — a harried mother of twins.

Wendy’s son and daughter have major behaviorial issues, a problem that drives her to seek out potential biological siblings to compare notes on her kids’ temper tantrums. After Wendy and Carol exchange notes and start their own research into their children’s DNA, they eventually find an answer to some of their questions — which leads them to Vanessa, a twenty-something trying to get a diamond from her live-in boyfriend. Ready to start a family of her own, Vanessa waits desperately for an engagement ring . . . but Eric seems no closer to committing than he did when they met.

All three women have trials, difficulties; no one’s life is perfect. And that’s what I loved about Snow’s novel dealing with fertility, motherhood, what it means to be a family — and what I always appreciate about her warm, rich and true-to-life characters. I probably related best to Laura, a type-A go-getter who can’t accept her family won’t grow. Her desire to have another baby seemed enviable rather than desperate, and I definitely felt her frustration and pain.

Vanessa was probably my least favorite character, especially as events . . . transpired . . . (sorry, trying to be obtuse and non-spoilery here) and she failed to understand the importance of it all. I was sympathetic to her plight and felt her frustration regarding her relationship with Eric, too, but sometimes felt like she was just so young. Though her issues were no less important, Vanessa’s problems seemed to pale in comparison to Wendy and Laura’s. But then again, what do I know?

Where the story began and where it ended were completely different than I expected, and I love that What Came First surprised me from beginning to end. Though often light-hearted and very witty, Snow’s novel also raised questions about how families are formed and how love develops. In Wendy’s case, especially, I could see how difficult conceiving children who were not biologically “his” was for her husband, and these troubles were something I’d never considered before. I love a good slice of women’s fiction that also makes me think!

Fans of Snow — as I am, from books like Just Like Me, Only Better — will appreciate her take on love, relationships and moving forward. If you’ve never devoured a Carol Snow novel, you’re missing out — and What Came First is a great, feel-good place to start.

4 out of 5!

ISBN: 0425243036 ♥ GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor Website
Review copy provided by author in exchange for my honest review

Book review: ‘Just Like Me, Only Better’ by Carol Snow

For Veronica Czaplicki, a single mom and student teacher in suburban L.A., life has begun to lag just a tiny bit. It might have been when her husband, Hank, left her for a real estate agent many years Veronica’s senior — and Veronica was forced to rent a tiny guesthouse from a lazy couple happier to push their children onto their new “tenant” than try and carpool their little ones themselves. Now a single mother struggling to stay afloat financially, Veronica is unhappy, worried, perpetually stressed — and seeking a new way to make ends meet.

Which is convenient for Jay Sharpie, manager of one Haley Rush — a television and radio star in the vein of Miley Cyrus who has disintegrated into another trainwreck devoured by the tabloids. Because plain-Jane teacher Veronica bears an uncanny resemblance to Haley, so much so that people constantly stop her in the street, asking for a signature or a photo. And Jay spots her, too.

Before she knows it, Veronica has been sucked into the Hollywood vacuum, signing on to become a Haley impersonator of sorts — someone to go out in public and act normal, essentially, since Ms. Rush refuses to get up before noon and drowns her sorrows in illicit substances. In order to do some serious damage control, Veronica pretends to be Haley for public appearances, tucking a trademark cowboy hat low on her head and hoping no one will notice the difference.

And for a while? No one does. But what happens when Veronica becomes just a little bit too much like Haley — and the lines become impossibly blurred?

Carol Snow’s Just Like Me, Only Better is a wildly entertaining novel I tore through in a matter of hours, laughing the entire time. With humor and plenty of warmth, our narrator Veronica was someone I rooted for from beginning to end, hoping she’d find a way to make a better life for herself — and her son, Ben — before she got too caught up in the fame game.

The antics that carry Veronica/Haley from activity to activity are hilarious and, though I could spot some of the plot devices a mile away, that didn’t make me enjoy the novel any less. Brady Ellis serves as a hunky love interest while Jay functions well as the Type A obsessive manager who, despite everything, does seem to have Veronica’s best interests at heart. Haley is the typical spoiled celebutante, known more for her blonde extensions and pretty face than miraculous singing or acting abilities. But as long as the money’s rolling in, who cares?

Carol Snow is an author completely new to me, but I’ll be looking for her backlist soon! With excellent pacing and plenty of humor, the novel absolutely flew by. Fans of chick lit and those interested in the California fame game will find plenty to enjoy in Just Like Me, Only Better, and I’ll be eager to go on another adventure with Snow soon.

4 out of 5!

ISBN: 0425232484 ♥ Purchase from AmazonAuthor Website
Review copy provided by publicist