Saturday, August 31, 2013

Taking it Off the Shelf: By Invitation Only

This month I chose a book that I had bought...sometime. I'm honestly not sure when I picked up By Invitation Only by Jodi Della Femina and Sheri McInnis. Two years ago? Who knows. All I know is that I thought the cover was pretty and it sounded like a cute read. It turned out to be an alright book...I didn't love it but it grew on me the more I read.

Here's the synopsis:
Toni Fratelli has a busy summer ahead.
After several setbacks in Manhattan force her to move home to East Hampton, her To Do list is full. She has to help her father run his popular Italian restaurant.  Start up her own catering company.  And plan, cater, and be the Maid of Honor at her best friend’s wedding on the beach.
Unfortunately for Toni, the groom’s mother is a competitive New York socialite who’ll stop at nothing to make sure her son doesn’t marry a local girl – especially on the family’s Southampton estate. The biggest caterer in the Hamptons is trying to run her fledgling business out of town.  And worse than anything, Toni seems to be losing her best friend to a circle of snooty bridesmaids.  Everything might be tolerable – if her dad could just stop treating her as if she was seventeen again.
At least Toni finds love.  When she meets a sexy surfer named Chris, it quickly turns into the most romantic summer fling of her life.  But there’s more to Chris than his vintage Mustang and used guitar … and he’s not sure Toni’s going to like the truth.  Before the end of the summer she’ll be forced to face her hopes – and fears – as trying to forgive becomes her biggest challenge yet.
I really disliked the book to start with but, like I said, it grew on me. (This is the reason I have such a hard time setting down books...what if it gets better??) My first, and biggest complaint is that there were too many characters. We got introduced to so many people to start off with that I wasn't sure who was who and who was important. It didn't help that Didi calls Hudson Sonny (Hudson and her son), Toni calls Layla Sully (Sullivan is her last name), and Chris's friends call him Johnson (absolutely no idea why). I also felt that it flipped back and forth between characters too much and the flow was all off. The chapters were too short and snapshot like and it didn't seem like a lot is happening.

I also found that the story relied too heavily on missed chances before Chris and Toni finally get together - Chris didn't see Toni's picture in the newspaper that the fisherman were using to wrap their fish or Toni didn't notice the Mustang with the surfboard when she went to an antique show. Why would they be paying attention to these things? It just seemed really silly.

Finally, I had a bit of an issue with Toni's disorder that she doesn't recognize faces (prosopagnosia) unless she knows someone well. I'm sure it exists but it seems way too easy to dismiss why she didn't recognize Chris at first. It could have been easy enough for her to recognize him but not be able to place him. She hit her head, after all. He still could have lied and said that no, he didn't recognize her because he doesn't want her to because he was so rude.

The book finally grabbed me at about halfway through. I didn't dislike it, necessarily, but all of the above issues really got on my nerves. I'm not sure what changed but I ended up enjoying myself for the second half of the book. Maybe it's because I got the hang of the characters or maybe I was just really invested in Toni's story. Either way, I was looking forward to a happy ending for everyone in the book. Well, almost everyone. There was one woman who totally got what she an interesting and totally surprising way (and I'm not yet sure if that's a good thing or if it took away from the other stories).

By Invitation Only by Jodi Della Femina and Sheri McInnis wasn't a bad read but it wasn't great one. I think it's a nice summer book but it's definitely best to read it in September because the book takes place over a full summer. I still have a full weekend of summer left (true summer before school starts for some people and everyone's back at work) but I'm already feeling sad that it's coming to a close. The book didn't really help! I still think it's a nice escapist read and think others could really enjoy it.

As for next month's pick...I'm not entirely sure which one I'll read. It might be Comfort Food or maybe The Romantics (and then I'll finally watch the movie!) or it might even be The Devil Wears Prada (nope, I've never actually read it!). It could also be something completely different and summery if I'm not ready to let this season go!

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