Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Opening Belle by Maureen Sherry

Title: Opening Belle
Author: Maureen Sherry
Read by: Julia Whelan
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Length: Approximately 10 hours and 20 minutes
Source: Simon & Schuster Audio Digital Review Copy – Thank-you!

In 2008, Belle is a successful manager on Wall Street trying to balance work and home life.  She is also trying to juggle the perilous hazards at work where the men on Wall Street behave badly and think that all women at work are fair game for grabs, squeezes, and morally questionable comments.  The women at Feagin Dixon join together to create “the glass ceiling club” to try to figure out how to work through the sexist policies at work and to also make it a better place for them all to work. 

While this is going on Belle experiences many troubles on the home front.  She is not able to spend the time she would like to with her young children, and she also is having problems with her husband Bruce.  Belle was once engaged to the lively, handsome, and charming Henry.  After being together for nine years, Henry abruptly told Belle she was no longer his fiancée with his arm wrapped about around another woman.  Belle never truly got over this and married Bruce on the rebound.  Bruce is handsome and funny, but Belle is annoyed that he not only doesn’t work to help support the family, but he also doesn’t take the part of the house husband as they employ a nanny, housekeeper, and dog walker.  At this time, Henry enters back into Belle’s life working for her largest client.  As Belle tries to navigate the struggles of life, she finds herself drawn by the allure of Henry.

I listened to the digital audiobook version of this novel.  I really liked narrator Julia Whelan and was drawn to the story while riding in the car and doing chores at home.  Unfortunately, I felt the story was very uneven.  I couldn’t tell if this was a women in the workplace novel, a lost love novel, or husbands gone bad novel – it seemed to jump from topic to topic without being cohesive in the story overall.  Some novels are able to juggle these different storylines, but I feel like this novel struggled with it – especially at the end where a lot of things were thrown together.  I did think it was very interesting story to see Wall Street at this time before, during, and after the collapse.

I related to Belle on one hand as a working mother with an intense job, but I struggled at times.  I was supposed to feel sorry for Belle with her high paying job, $3 million dollar salary, nanny, housekeeper, dog walker, etc., but I realized that I actually work the same amount of hours as Belle without a 6 figure salary, multimillion dollar bonuses, and vast paid help network.  It was hard to feel sympathy for her – she seemed greatly out of touch of how the rest of the world functions.  Moving up the ladder at an engineering firm such as where I used to work is also almost impossible for a woman with children and there are also inappropriate comments. I felt that portion of this novel was very interesting, realistic, and could have been fleshed out more.

I don’t agree with the blurb that goes with this novel that it is “A whip-smart and funny novel.”  I found it to be an overwhelmingly depressing novel and did not find it full of laughs.  I don’t like how women’s fiction is always marketed like it has to be funny to sell.  Please don’t label things as humorous that are not.  It gets the reader to buy the novel only to be disappointed when it turns out to be a drama rather than a comedy.

I saw online that Opening Belle is being made into a movie by Reese Witherspoon and Warner Brothers.  I would like to see it.  Will they be able to put the good parts of the novel together and get rid of the bad?  I feel like the bones of a good movie are within this novel.


I really did not like Belle’s husband, Bruce.  Belle spends most of the novel complaining about him (and the complaints seemed well deserved), and when it was discovered he was cheating on her, I was ready for Belle to give him the ax and move on.  Therefore, I was very, very disappointed when Belle in the epilogue was making a new life with Bruce years later.  They were separated, but together.  I think she would have been a stronger woman if she would have moved on without Bruce.  I actually found Henry to be more of a romantic, compelling character in the book.  The romance angle of this book just felt forced.  It could have been trimmed down to focus more on the working woman angle.

I also didn’t like that the solution to the working woman problem is that Belle had to give up her job and start afresh somewhere else.  I feel like this is how all working women novels end.  Can’t women find a successful resolution in their workplace without quitting?  It’s disturbing to think about.


Overall, Opening Belle is an interesting look at the world of Wall Street at the cusp of the collapse.

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Search for Delicious by Natalie Babbitt

This unique children’s novel starts with a legend of dwarves, woldwellers, and a sad mermaid, which instantly captured my boys’ attention.  After the legend, the story delved into the story of a Prime Minister putting together a dictionary that has an example for each word.  For delicious he has down as an example, “fried fish.”  The King disagrees and it’s soon discovered that no one in the castle agrees on just what delicious means.  The Prime Minister’s young ward Gaylen sets off to poll the Kingdom to find the true meaning of delicious.  The Kings’ brother-in-law Hemlock sets off before Gaylen and sows the seeds of discontent along his path.  For Hemlock may have been waiting for this opportunity his entire life, to find a way to overthrow the King.

The boys and I read this together for their Youth Book club at the library.  They will be discussing this book in one week. We all enjoyed the book.  They didn’t want to read it at first (as it wasn’t Star Wars), but once the novel started, they were very interested in the story.  They liked that the protagonist is a young boy, the fantasy elements, and the eternal question, what is delicious?

Daniel told me that delicious to him is Chili Plus (a family favorite of layered, chili, shredded cheddar, crushed nacho chips, and lettuce) and Kile said delicious to him is chocolate chip pudding cake (another family favorite).  It should be a good book for the kids to discuss at book club, especially just wondering, what is delicious.  In the novel, the citizens are up in arms in particular if their livelihood is tied to a food or beverage.  They would like their food to be what is meant as delicious to help sales.  Luckily, the novel has a great answer for the true meaning of delicious.

Daniel’s favorite part was that he thought it was funny that the General said that beer was what is delicious and that on when they are talking about an example for golden, the General also replies beer.  Kile won’t answer my questions any more about what he likes – is he hitting the preteen years early?  

A quote I enjoyed in book is “I’ll go away forever!” he cried to Marrows.  “People are unbearable!  They won’t listen, except to lies, and they fight all of the time and I’ve had enough!”  This is how I feel about our current political climate.

Overall, The Search for Delicious was a wonderful engaging novel that my boys and I all greatly enjoyed.  It makes a great novel for discussion among your family as well as for a book club.

Book Source:  The Kewaunee Public Library