Book review: ‘Baby Proof’ by Emily Giffin

Baby ProofOh, I’m so torn about this one.

On one hand, it was very entertaining. Like all Emily Giffin novels, I raced through it — barely pausing between sentences, between chapters. It was interesting and often amusing and filled with (mostly) likeable characters, but . . .


It felt shallow. Ill-conceived (eh, pun intended). I wasn’t entirely comfortable with where the story was headed, and I definitely wasn’t comfortable with where it wound up.

But look. If you’re a Giffin fan, you’ve probably already tread down the path of Baby Proof — like, years ago — and don’t need me to tell you to grab it or not grab it. If you like women’s fiction, chances are favorable you’ve come across the author’s work — and I certainly have. This was actually the final book of her backlist I had to pick up, and I’m not sorry I read it.

Would I read it again? Nope.

The gist of our story: Claudia Parr thinks she’s happily married to Ben, a man with whom she shares a no-child vision for their lives; Ben decides that may not actually be the case; marriage crisis ensues. In the end, Claudia must decide if she’s secure in not wanting to be a mother — and if she’s comfortable with Ben going on to parent with someone else.

That’s it.

It’s a pretty long book centering on one precise issue, but I actually thought Giffin handled it well. Of course, because our narrator emphatically declares she does not want a child — and stands to lose her marriage because of it — she sees babies everywhere. One sister desperately wants to be pregnant, but can’t be; another friend thinks she is going to have a child with her married lover, but fate might have other ideas. Basically, it’s all the babies all the time in Claudia’s world . . . and everything gets complicated.

If this sounds like a read you’d enjoy and/or you like Emily Giffin, you’ll probably dig this one. It was not my favorite of her books — that distinction would go to Something Blue — but, you know, it was passable.

3.5 out of 5!

Pub: 2007 • GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor Website
Personal copy purchased by Meg

Book review: ‘Where We Belong’ by Emily Giffin

May contain minor spoilers, but likely nothing you won’t infer from the jacket copy.

Emily Giffin and Jennifer Weiner are my women of summer. Without their smartly-written, sassy brand of women’s fiction, my long flights and days at the beach would take on the dull patina of an old photograph. I need their tales of love, friendship and what-might-have-been to fully enjoy my vacations. And Emily Giffin’s latest, out July 24, does not disappoint.

Sophisticated Marian Caldwell has worked hard to keep the past way past. Now a successful television producer in New York City, she’s living the dream: city living; great career; and handsome, wealthy boyfriend — a man who is clearly crazy about her, even if he’s not clear on his intentions for their shared future.

After another argument about the “M” word, Marian is surprised to find a visitor in her hall: 18-year-old Kirby Rose, a pretty teen drummer with seeking answers. Kirby’s arrival throws a wrench into Marian’s carefully-constructed identity, and her probing forces Marian to recall a past she’d hoped was sealed shut. But once the wheels are set in motion, they cannot be stopped — and Marian and Kirby have no choice but to go in search of “the one thing missing in their lives.” And what they discover surprises them both.

Emily Giffin’s Where We Belong struck a deep chord with me. Having guessed the connection between Kirby and Marian simply from reading the cover blurb (as you likely have, too), I figured this story of first love, youth and redemption would ultimately bring me to tears. And it did.

Marian is the sort of polished, Type-A New Yorker often populating women’s fiction. Determined to make it big from an early age, she’s dedicated her professional life to paying her dues and moving swiftly up the ladder — and her relationship with Peter, the head of her TV network, doesn’t hurt. Still, she believes their love is genuine; their affection is clear, anyway. And that feels good enough. For a while.

Outgoing Kirby, preparing for her high school graduation, has always felt separate from her hard-working parents and perfect younger sister. Aware she was adopted at birth, Kirby doesn’t bear any ill will toward her family or carry a chip on her shoulder about her biological parents . . . but she’s always wondered about them, thought of them, maintained an active curiosity about who and where they were. As her eighteenth birthday approaches, she’s able to request the name of her biological mother — which leads her to Marian, logically. But fearing her parents’ hurt feelings regarding her search, she chooses to keep her quest secret.

Things don’t go smoothly. Having a long-lost birth daughter appear on your doorstep late one random night isn’t exactly a recipe for a joyful reunion. Stunned, Marian attempts to make sense of Kirby’s sudden presence in her world — but it’s not easy. Her mere existence has been kept a secret from several key people in Marian’s life, and the day of reckoning seems to be upon her. And it’s terrifying.

Marian herself is a bit of a vacuum. Beyond her ambition and high-powered TV job, we don’t know much about her — and live more in the past, in fact, than we do in the present. Where We Belong flashes between present day and life for Marian and her first love almost two decades earlier, before life became undeniably complicated. As Marian’s story unfolds, it’s hard at times to sympathize with her and her decisions . . . but I tried to put myself in her place, questioning what I would do as a scared 18-year-old deeply flushed with shame, doubt and uncertainty.

The story really picks up as Marian and Kirby reunite in search of their shared link: a man named Conrad. I found the flashbacks of Marian and Conrad’s summer together very romantic, authentic and painful. Giffin perfectly crystallizes that moony, delightful stage of first love — a time that can never be recaptured again. My heart broke as the story unfolded, desperately hoping things could turn out differently . . . but knowing they couldn’t. And wouldn’t. Where We Belong’s main strength came in the form of these recollections, I think, and how much they made my heart hurt. Giffin knows her stuff.

The subject of adoption is handled with a great deal of grace and sensitivity, too. Always aware that Kirby already has a mother, Marian treads their new relationship carefully. She acts more like a protective aunt, or an older friend, and is always sure to avoid stepping on the Roses’ toes. I respected her for backing away when she needed to, and for paying careful attention to Mrs. Rose’s feelings. It was the kind, mature thing to do.

I read this entire book on a five-hour plane ride, racing to find out what would become of this beleaguered crew. Though I had a few quibbles with the plot’s predictability, it was nothing that ultimately hurt the story for me. Giffin delivers good women’s fiction, that’s for sure, with a cast of dimensional characters and a story of love and redemption I couldn’t put down. Though it didn’t have the punch of Something Borrowed, my favorite of her novels, it resonated with me. And I think it’ll resonate with you, too.

4 out of 5!

ISBN: 0312554192 ♥ GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor Website
Review copy provided by Amazon Vine in exchange for my honest review

Book review: ‘Heart of the Matter’ by Emily Giffin

Growing up, my mom was a huge fan of the Eagles and Don Henley. From the moment Emily Giffin’s Heart Of the Matter landed on my radar a few years back, I’ve had the chorus of Henley’s famous “Forgiveness” in my head. And I think it’s a clue, friends.

“I’ve been tryin’ to get down
To the heart of the matter
But my will gets weak
And my thoughts seem to scatter,
But I think it’s about
Even if, even if you don’t love me anymore . . .”

So here we have a tangled, tangled web of infidelity, mommyhood and loneliness between Tessa and Nick Russo, married parents to two young children, and Valerie, a single mother struggling to hold her life together after an accident severely burns her young son. Plastic surgeon Nick comes to Valerie’s rescue and begins to treat Charlie’s wounds, but it’s Nick’s actual presence in their lives that provides the most healing.

We know from the get-go that Nick and Valerie are going to become entangled. This is a book about cheating, after all, so there has to be some cheating here — right? But it takes so long for the actual cheating to take place and there’s so much angst and longing and confusion that, after a while, I just thought, “Hey, can we get on with this? Can you just do it or do whatever you’re going to do?”

Yep. It was that sort of book.

“Frustrating” would be a good word to describe the action in Giffin’s fifth novel, which features cameos from beloved Something Borrowed characters Dex and Rachel. If I’m cheering for a man to dissolve his marriage by sleeping with another woman, a woman I actually grow to appreciate in some small way, then the book has reached a confusing turn.

Valerie is a complicated and broken woman — a lawyer with little interest in the law beyond providing for she and Charlie, a young man who shows tremendous strength of character in light of the terrible accident that brings them to Nick’s hospital in the first place. Not one to succumb to the whims and fancies of the society women whose children attend Charlie’s school, Valerie seems to exist in her own bubble — and likes it that way. Nick is the first one to pierce her hard exterior, and part of me was glad that someone had finally gotten through to her.

But how could you not want to punch Valerie — I mean, really? Despite knowing all about his situation, she was somehow still wooed by — and wooing of — a married man. But Nick — Nick, the real villain here? I wanted so badly to chalk him up as a dirtbag, but I could still see glimmers of humanity in him. Tessa seemed unhappy, cold and distant, yes, but that didn’t give him a free pass to go and get his jollies elsewhere. It was worse than just a physical connection, though; it was obvious that Tessa and Nick had grown apart, and Nick truly had an affair of the heart. Instead of talking through his difficulties with his wife, Captain Plastic Surgeon went ahead and decided to play savior with a terrified woman and her son.

So actually, now that I’m typing all that, I think he’s a jerk.

I know many readers do not look kindly on books dealing with infidelity, and it’s certainly not a subject that makes me dance around in glee. But the reality is . . . well, it’s reality. And I think Giffin takes a difficult subject matter and weaves a human touch throughout this story of redemption, though I didn’t necessarily think the characters were wonderful people.

But the heart of the matter? It’s not the cheating. It’s forgiveness, just like Henley croons, and I found myself questioning what I would do in a similar situation. “The more I know, the less I understand,” Henley sings, and I think that’s what prompts us all to take a leap of faith. It’s the only way.

Fans of Giffin won’t find the heart and soul they loved in novels like Something Borrowed, a book that also tackles infidelity, but Heart Of The Matter is still a thought-provoking read. I’d recommend it, particularly on audio — and this was my first audio book ever! Cynthia Nixon (Miranda of “Sex and the City” fame) narrated and had quite the expressive voice. Sometimes too expressive, because her throaty pauses and obnoxious society lady voices could get annoying. But I still enjoyed the audio experience.

3.5 out of 5!

ISBN: 0312554176 ♥ GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor Website
Personal copy won from Chick Lit Is Not Dead

Book review: ‘Something Blue’ by Emily Giffin

Darcy Rhone has made a career — and life — on her charisma and attractiveness. Coupled with the fact that she’s always been the hottest woman in any room and far more beautiful than her best friend since childhood, Rachel, Darcy’s existence has centered around her high-powered PR job, gorgeous (and paper-perfect) fiance Dex and their lavish lifestyle in New York City.

Until she discovers Dex has been cheating on her with plain ol’ Rachel — and until she begins sleeping with Marcus, one of her groomsmen in the upcoming wedding she’d planned with Dex, her boyfriend of seven years. And until she gets pregnant.

And then? Things get complicated.

Emily Giffin’s Something Blue, sequel to the mega-successful Something Borrowed, centers around Darcy’s life as she struggles to get over the ridiculous, over-the-top life she’s created for herself through a lifetime of selfish decisions — and struggles with impending motherhood and the idea of the “perfect man,” whomever he may be. (And chances are it just isn’t Marcus.)

If you’ve read Something Borrowed — and, before starting this one, you should — you’ll remember our dear Darcy as the spoiled, bratty and wholly unlikeable best friend of Rachel, our narrator in the first of Giffin’s novels. Despite the fact that I knew Dex and Rach’s tryst was wrong, it was so obvious that they were in love — not Dex and Darcy — that you couldn’t help but cheer for the star-crossed lovers. Basically, Darcy just sucked. And I didn’t really want her to be happy.

Well, Giffin once again proves her mastery in the fiction genre by taking someone I was predisposed to despise and making me cheer for her. For the first half of the book and then some, Darcy is up to her old tricks and nonsense, making terrible decisions and living in a dream world in which she’s not really pregnant. Marcus turns out to be a world-class jerk — no huge shock — but you can’t help but feel sorry for him as Darcy waxes on and on about whether Dex and Rachel are happy, badgering him to death about how Dex could have really chosen someone like Rachel over her.

But then things begin to change. After Darcy makes a decision to leave New York and stays with Ethan, a good friend since childhood, she’s forced to take a serious look at herself in a mirror: and doesn’t like what she sees, particularly reflected through Ethan’s eyes. And when Darcy decides enough is enough, I was right there with her, ready to see some serious changes and root for her through her pregnancy and love affairs. From the beginning of the novel, Darcy’s tone of voice indicates she’s reflecting back on a less flattering time of her life — and knowing that she would have to change kept me with her on the journey.

Even at her very worst, Something Blue is compulsively readable because of the commanding way in which we see the world through Darcy’s (skewed) lens. Giffin’s fast-paced, silky writing keeps readers moving quickly and, though I often wanted to punch Darcy for being so hopelessly shallow, it was easy to see that she was a product of her upbringing . . . and we can only hope things will change for the next generation.

Fans of chick lit are probably acquainted with Giffin already, but if not? Definitely pick up Something Borrowed and follow it up with this sequel, two of the “classics” in the women’s fiction genre.

4 out of 5!

ISBN: 0312323859 ♥ Purchase from AmazonAuthor Website
Personal copy purchased by Meg

Cover art: The pinker, the better

Standing in a bookstore with shelves of paperbacks lined up neatly before me, I can tell you something with absolute certainty: my eye is professionally (er, habitually?) trained to seek out pink.

During yesterday’s LitChat, a Twitter-based chat for book lovers happening at 4 p.m. EST on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, the subject was chick lit — that occasionally controversial, usually light and fun genre. It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of chick lit — or women’s fiction, a term which is sometimes used interchangeably, sometimes not — and spend a good deal of my time reading authors like Jennifer Weiner, Emily Giffin and Meg Cabot.

Getting into what defines “chick lit” is a topic unto itself, and I’m not here to get up on my literary soapbox and debate the general merits of a subgenre I really enjoy. Some folks dig it; others don’t. That’s perfectly fine. Should those who enjoy chick lit novels be derided? Of course not — just as those who enjoy graphic novels, romance, science fiction or any other type of literature shouldn’t be criticized. We like what we like, and I don’t judge. (Too much.) We’re all reading, and that’s what’s really important here.

No, friends, I’m here today to talk about pink books — and, specifically, how quickly my eye falls to them. During LitChat, some folks mentioned a book having a pink cover is actually a major deterrent — and that they might miss a great book simply because it has a silly or “frothy” cover. I can definitely relate and see where they’re coming from, though I’m on the opposite end of the spectrum: I tend to shy away from books without pink covers. Or ones with “boring” covers, at least.

And I’m sure I’m not alone in that. Some really fun stories I’ve read had very “girly,” chick-lit covers — the ones you can spot a mile away. As readers mentioned on Twitter yesterday, the types of covers you can spot immediately: maybe with a giant, overflowing purse, or a spike-heel shoe, or a gaggle of cartoonish women gathered together. Usually the colors are bright with a healthy dash of pink thrown in there. And who do they attract? Ladies like me, apparently.

Want some pink, girly book eye candy? I have plenty to share. And I know that for every book with a “frothy” cover I love, someone else will dislike the look of a novel for just that reason. Again, no worries — I can see both sides of the issue! And just because a novel features my favorite hue doesn’t mean it’s pure froth — quite the opposite, usually. Many of the books with seemingly innocent covers have some pretty heavy content, which is another criticism of some of the cover art. False advertising, if you will.

But for me? The pinker, the better.

Something Borrowedalong_for_the_rideafter_youperfect_fifthssweet_loveartichokes_heartmilkrun

Book review: ‘Something Borrowed’ by Emily Giffin

Something BorrowedOn the evening of her thirtieth birthday, Rachel White goes out with some of her closest friends to celebrate — and have a wee bit too much to drink. After her best friend Darcy is carried home, Rachel is left alone to while away the hours with Dex, Darcy’s fiance — and an old friend of Rachel’s. Feeling low and nostalgic, Rachel and Dex stay out talking and drinking until late in the evening. And Dex doesn’t quite find his way home that evening . . .

So begins Emily Giffin’s Something Borrowed, a page-turner of a novel about friendship, love and honesty — and standing up for yourself. After decades of playing second fiddle to the exuberant, bossy and gorgeous Darcy, Rachel just wants to be out of her best friend’s shadow, though she can’t quite balance those rebellious feelings against the intense loyalty she still feels for her.

Which is funny, considering she’s cheating with Dex, Darcy’s longtime boyfriend and current fiance. And Rachel is the maid of honor. And she and Darcy are inseparable — except for the times that Rach is kissing Dex, of course.

It’s crazy how much I really felt for Rachel, not Darcy — Darcy is almost a wholly unlikeable character. Rachel is trying to assert herself, take control of her own life . . . and finds herself truly in love, perhaps for the first time. Her relationship with Dex develops apart from Darcy but is, of course, completely shaped by Darcy. Can it ever be anything more? And can Dex actually go through with this sham of a marriage?

I really loved this book — and as an avid reader of women’s fiction, I can say sincerely that Giffin is a master at describing the intensity of first love, the complication of wanting to please our parents but also ourselves, at being a good friend but still protecting your own heart and interests when needed. She moves quickly through each scene without letting anything get too weighty, but we still feel the emotional resonance of the story. I felt connected to everyone and everything happening, though Giffin never lets us get too mired down in guilt or sympathy. It would pain me to see this labeled as a “beach read,” though I can definitely enjoy both books immensely! This just has so much to think about and process, if you let yourself get totally absorbed (and you will — I don’t think you’ll have a choice!).

All of the subtle touches in Something Borrowed just made it feel real to me — the dialogue was realistic, the scenes all believable, the characters flawed but lovable. And I was floored when we got a detail like Rachel having to retreat home from a tryst for the evening because she didn’t have any contact lens solution — she couldn’t sleep in her contacts! Finally — it’s not all roses and passionate kisses and staring deeply into each other’s eyes. We have to take out our freaking contact lenses before sleeping, thankyouverymuch. And as a serious Anglophile, I was ecstatic at the change of scenery toward the end of the novel. Sold!

Insightful, moving and just highly entertaining, don’t hesitate to pick up this one if it sounds like a genre you might enjoy (or if you’re looking to branch out!). Can’t wait to pick up the sequel, Something Blue, in the near future.

4.5 out of 5


ISBN: 0312321198 ♥ Purchase from AmazonAuthor Website
Personal copy purchased by Meg

Loving the one you’re with — and Maroon 5

As usual, the weekend absolutely flew by — but at least we had some fun! Saturday night was the Maroon 5 / Counting Crows / Sara Bareilles concert out at Nissan Pavilion and, thanks to the trusty GPS, we made it there without any problem. There was a brief moment of tiny terror when Marcello the Garmin told us to take a left when signs for the Pavilion clearly indicated we should go right, but we never should have doubted Marcello. He was spot on!

So the show was great. My sister and I saw Maroon 5 when they opened up for John Mayer back in August 2004, but we weren’t necessarily huge fans then… now, pretty huge fans. They performed all of their hits — “She Will Be Loved,” “Sunday Morning,” “Harder to Breathe,” “This Love” — plus some of the newer songs I love, especially “Won’t Go Home Without You.” Our boyfriends were pretty good sports about the whole thing, even though they had Counting Crows to look forward to. We stayed for most of that show before heading out around 10:30 p.m. Traffic at Nissan is notoriously horrible, and we managed to emerge mostly unscathed — and get back home with no trouble! Coming home from a show in Falls Church in May, I somehow managed to take Kate and I onto 395 . . . without any prayer of finding 495 again. Definitely won’t make that mistake again! And not at 2 a.m.

So Maroon 5 was awesome. I didn’t get that same head-over-heels, suffocating with excitement feeling I get when I go see John Mayer, but that’s just because I have an inexorable crush on John Mayer and listen to his music obsessively. While I’m not necessarily obsessed with Maroon 5 in the traditional sense (I only have room for one serious musical obsession at a time), I do really like them. So we had fun dancing in a few empty rows, generally being silly and eating candied pecans. Yes, candied pecans.

Still waiting to hear back from about six agents concerning my queries. I’m not too concerned — it’s only been about a week since I sent out the last batch. Most agencies said they’d get back to me in two to four weeks . . . I’m still right on track. I tried not to think about it much this weekend . . . that’s more of a work-week dilemma for me.

And now it’s Monday — the day after my aunt’s birthday party. I spent most of yesterday eating really delicious party food, watching the Olympics and reading.

I just finished “Love The One You’re With” by Emily Giffin, and I liked it. I can’t say it changed my life or anything, but it was interesting for any woman who’s ever wondered what life might have been like had they tried to rekindle an old flame. Or, well, not even that — for anyone who’s ever needed closure, I suppose. Lord knows I have. Main character Ellen hasn’t ever really gotten over her ex Leo, her “first love” and one who changed her views on pretty much everything. The thing is that he’s pretty much a jerk and she needs to get over him. He wants her back when she’s in a stable, loving and committed relationship — when she’s married. WTF? Jerk!

But I guess that wasn’t really the point — the point, to me, was that it really comes down to choosing to choose love — and the acknowledgment that we can love and be loved by many people. No two loves are the same. My mom has told me — and I’ve never doubted her — that we can fall in love many times in one life.

And if it turns out we can’t, I’m definitely in trouble.