Book review: ‘Wallflower in Bloom’ by Claire Cook

Wallflower in BloomAccustomed to lurking in her famous guru brother’s shadow, Deirdre “Dee” Griffin longs to step out from behind her successful siblings and create a path that’s all her own — but fate seems to have other plans. Single, in her thirties and living in a renovated sheep shed on her brother’s vast estate, Dee knows she can’t continue on as his mousy social media adviser. But how to move forward?

When an opportunity to break a leg on “Dancing With the Stars” falls into her waiting lap, she leaps at the chance to pursue a passion — any passion — and get away from Tag’s influence. Even if her time on the show doesn’t necessarily go as planned, the joy is always in the journey.

Claire Cook’s Wallflower in Bloom is a lighthearted, fun and delightful read that made running errands in the company of the audio book a pleasure. Dee is the underdog character we love to root for, and the story had a vibe akin to “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” There’s no wedding, per say, and Dee isn’t as bad off as Toula, but this transformation story was every bit as satisfying and enjoyable.

What really makes the story is Dee’s complicated relationship with her superstar brother and two sisters: a gaggle of four trying to navigate their roles as adults in each other’s lives. Their relationships are complicated by the fact that Tag Griffin is a global brand employing his family members . . . meaning Dee takes orders from her little brother, and a bossy one at that. Though she could have gotten another job, sure, it was easier to do what was comfortable. I get that.

There’s a little romance, some intrigue, plenty of funny family drama and Los Angeles scenery. Wallflower in Bloom is more chocolate mousse than meat-and-potatoes, but it hit the spot all the same. Dee’s transformation from a timid woman hiding behind a computer to a blossoming dancer, even a haphazard one, was fun — and her sense of humor and delightful narration made this a frothy, laugh-out-loud read I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to chick lit lovers.

4 out of 5!

Pub: 2012 • GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor Website
Audio copy borrowed from my local library


Book review: ‘Summer Blowout’ by Claire Cook

summer_blowout I’m sure it would have helped had I read Claire Cook’s Summer Blowout in the Outer Banks this summer, instead of in the cold, dank light of my living room in November. That being said, I would like to consider myself somewhat of a devoted reader — I can put aside my personal chills and sweaters long enough to be absorbed in what many would consider a “good beach read” in the fall, jumping into the world of the big, “fake” Italian Shaughnessy clan in Boston.

Recently divorced, lipstick-loving heroine Bella Shaughnessy works as a stylist and makeup artist at her father’s salon in Boston — along with her myriad of sisters, brothers, half-sisters, their children, her father’s ex-wives and . . . yes, you get the picture. It’s a huge, gregarious and complicated bunch. Bella is struggling within the new confines of her work, surrounded by family who only want to help her through a difficult time — and one sister, Sophia, who happens to leap on Bella’s ex-husband’s newfound freedom. Sophia begins to date Craig, Bella’s ex. Not very sisterly.

Honestly, I can’t really tell you what this book is “about.” Yes, it’s about Bella finding herself following the end of her 10-year marriage . . . about letting go of the past, moving on, etc. But, for me, there really wasn’t a clear and discernible plot arc. The family sort of hobbles around the salon, afraid of a new salon group opening up across the street from their waterfront property; the sisters and brother Mario attend events and do hair and makeup; Bella inherits a small, squirrely little dog named Precious; everyone attends a wedding at the end; Sophia tries to win Bella’s affections back, but she’s still seeing Craig. This is a short book — around 240 pages — but I feel like not much . . . happens. Even after Bella meets someone new and goes into business developing her own product line, I don’t feel any sort of compassion or interest in what’s going on. I feel no heat at all between Bella and the New Guy — in fact, I didn’t feel much of anything at all through this book.

But I don’t want to end on a negative note! Claire Cook is a good, breezy writer, weaving nimbly through scenes and describing the look and feel of locations well. My problems aren’t at all with her style. And there were plot points I enjoyed in Summer Blowout, such as the burgeoning relationship of Bella’s mother with a mystery man — and just who that mystery man turns out to be. I love books about family relationships and dynamics, and I’m definitely a huge fan of “women’s fiction” (or chick lit, however you want to slice it). I was amused by Precious’s adventures and Bella’s obsession with beauty products. But there was something just missing in this book — something that would have made me care. Better luck on the next Cook title, I guess. Maybe I’ll try Life’s a Beach next?

2.5 out of 5

ISBN: 1401322417 ♥ Purchase from AmazonAuthor Blog
Personal copy obtained through BookMooch