Thursday, October 29, 2009

Best Friends Forever by Jennifer Weiner

3 Star

Fifteen years after Addie's betrayal by her best friend, Val, in high school, Addie finds herself floundering, desperately lonely and trying to find true love through internet dating. After returning home from a dismal date, she finds Val standing on her doorstep, her coat sleeve blood stained and a terrified look on her face. When Val pleads for help, Addie knows she won't turn her back on her old friend. As they investigate the mysterious events leading up to Val's sudden appearance on Addie's doorstep, they work through their history and discover the true meaning of friendship. 

Lydia - 4 Star

I enjoyed Best Friends Forever even though I was expecting chick lit which this novel wasn’t in my chick lit opinion. It reminded me more of a Judy Blume novel such as Summer Sisters, which I don’t really remember, but I found it felt similar.

Although it was not even remotely light and fluffy, I thought the writing was impeccable as usual with Weiner’s novels and all the details of growing up from the 70’s through 90’s brought me right back to my childhood and adolescence. I found the story interesting with enough intrigue to keep me reading and I read quickly enough to find the end satisfying.

I was interested in her use of the first person narrative for a male character whose voice alternated with the main character’s. I felt Weiner portrayed him well and I was not disappointed as I sometimes am when chick lit authors attempt to get into the heads of men (and they usually stick to the third person, not even attempting the first person).

Overall, I enjoyed Best Friends Forever and if you’re looking for something a little different from chick lit and don’t expect to laugh out loud as frequently as some of her other novels, check out Weiner’s latest.

Kathryn - 2 Star

I think this would be an example of loving the author but not loving this mystery lit novel. I was pretty disappointed as her last few have been so engaging and so enticing.

I didn’t really believe the friendship from the beginning and we were given only a small snapshot of their childhoods and then moved on too quickly to their adulthood.
Perhaps I would have had more interest if we’d spent more time with them as children? Instead we spent a lot of time with the main character, Addie, who has a hard time in high school and then experiences a really difficult family life. Addie, as a persona, is sympathetic and likeable but I still didn’t understand why she was interested in renewing her friendship with Val after all they had been through. We aren’t really told much about Val during the years between high school and the present but I wish we had been as she felt like a fill in character for me and she should really have been much more alive.

There are some parts of Best Friends Forever that I enjoyed though! The ending for example made me glad I finished it. I enjoyed the character of the detective and that the subject of infertility was explored through male emotions. I was interested in Addie’s relationship with her brother Jon as it felt like the most real connection. But given that the novel is supposed to be about best friends you would think that their connection would have been better- is there a greater & higher point here that I’m missing? Am I being too literal about the title?

Not my favourite I’m afraid.

Connect with Jennifer Weiner here:

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Stuck in Downward Dog by Chantel Simmons

3.5 Star

When Mara Brennan's boyfriend leaves her three days before her twenty eighth birthday, she realizes she's stuck. Stuck in a job she hates, stuck with mounds of bills to pay and stuck standing idly by while watching her friends move on. So she creates the OM List, an identity makeover list, inspired by her friends and her new-found love for yoga. As she begins to check things off, with one hilarious disaster after another, she discovers how to become unstuck and begins to follow her own path. 

Lydia - 4 Star

I thoroughly enjoyed this Canadian Chick Lit novel which I found easy to read and laugh out loud funny. Stuck in Downward Dog is chock full of Toronto details which I loved, especially having been to many of the areas she describes. I did get irritated though with the explanations of things Torontonian or Canadian which were put in parenthesis. Perhaps it was because I already knew these details, but I think it brought me out of the writing whereas if it was incorporated into the prose it might not have stood out. Regardless, these dropped off at some point and it didn’t ruin the book for me.

It seems I enjoy books written in the first person much more than the third person and it became even more apparent in this novel (with the exception of Jennifer Weiner who writes the third person spectacularly). This chick lit character had just the right amount of ditz, quirk and outrageous situations along the lines of Bridget Jones’s Diary and The Shopaholic series and made me laugh out loud multiple times. Even though I wasn’t sure about most of her friends or her sister, I loved the character’s often painful transformation and was pleased that it didn’t all revolve around a man – he was only the impetus for her transformation.

Stuck in Downward Dog is great Canadian Chick Lit and I will definitely read her new novel coming out next year!

Kathryn - 3 Star

At first I wasn’t so sure I was going to get into Stuck in Downward Dog because the first couple of chapters seemed really busy. This may be because she was explaining her references of Toronto to people who wouldn’t know the places and areas of the city. As I live in Toronto and spent most of my life living downtown this seemed irritating. I got over it as it stopped after a bit and I accepted that most people reading it don’t live here and would perhaps need the tips!

The story is good and I really liked the main character of Mara. She is searching for a purpose to her life when her boyfriend leaves, she doesn’t like her job and she can’t afford where she is living. It’s really painful to read about her attempts to become what she thinks she ought to be. Mara seems to think her life would fall into place if she could just become exactly like her two best friends. Her friends appear to be living the perfect lives but I didn’t care for them much! They seemed cool, distant and snooty and not very supportive of their friend. Mara does, however, have the “gay best friend” who is much more supportive and ends up being the one to gently (or not so gently sometimes) push her in the right direction.

There were some parts that were hilarious and some painful moments where she gets everything wrong too (unfortunately these were funny also!) and I wanted her to succeed. I even eventually accepted that her two girlfriends were probably not so awful!

All in all I would definitely read another novel by Chantel Simmons and I look forward to it!

Connect with Chantel Simmons:

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Flying Troutmans by Miriam Toews

4.5 Star

After an emergency phone call from her niece, recently dumped Hattie returns home from Paris where she discovers her sister has been readmitted to the psych ward and her 11 year old niece and 15 year old nephew are fending for themselves. Attempting to take charge, Hattie decides it's time to find their father and the quirky trio embark on a road trip full of self discovery, not only about themselves, but each other and learn the meaning of love and family along the way. 

Lydia - 4.5 Star

I enjoyed The Flying Troutmans with its quirky sense of humour and unique characters and don’t think I’ve read anything quite like it. The story was simple and often sad, yet the characters were rich with history and flaws which kept this story alive and the children leapt off the page as if they were real.

It was a satisfying tale of the bond of family ties and it was the relationship between an aunt and her niece and nephew that kept me fascinated. My niece turned eight months old while I was reading this tale and I could relate to Hattie’s return to help her sister and her kids as I’m pretty sure there is nothing I wouldn’t do for my little niece or my brother and fabulous sister in law.

Kathryn’s point about an epilogue is interesting. On the one hand, I would have liked to know what happened sometime down the road in their lives, but on the other hand, I like to have my own ideas of what their future held. I guess it depends on your preference whether you will be satisfied with the ending, but it definitely doesn’t all wrap up quite so neatly which is par for the entire novel.

Overall, if you want a quirky, Canadian read,  The Flying Troutmans fits the bill!

Kathryn - 4.5 Star

I’d have to say that I’ve never read a book quite like this one. It’s a bit strange and a bit quirky but that really appealed to me.
The dialogue is strangely written without quotation marks, just he said/she said in the middle of the paragraphs and surprisingly this didn’t bother me. Thebes is at once a precocious 11-year-old and a lost little girl and she has some peculiar thoughts. Logan seems more a “normal” 15-year-old as he is rebellious and a bit of a loner, but I was always happy that he really does care about his little sister and wants her to be safe and happy despite him finding her incessantly irritating! Along the drive Hattie is never sure how to care for these kids, who obviously have had a somewhat disjointed upbringing, and is constantly worried that her sister won’t want to try to get better again. The search for their father realistically becomes quite important but you never feel as if the kids are in serious trouble.

Although you know in the back of your mind that the premise of the story is serious the whole novel is really funny, I laughed out loud several times. You can’t help really being drawn to the kids and liking them.

My only down thought was that I wanted to know more, I needed an epilogue!

Connect with Miriam Toews:


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