Monday, November 30, 2009

Six Weeks to Toxic by Louisa McCormack

2.5 Star

Two friends. Two completely different personalities.  One breakup. Friends for sixteen years, Bess and Maxine have only had each other.  As they come through the millennium unscathed, Bess's hangover lingers as she reevaluates her life and the part her control freak friend, Maxine plays in it. 

Lydia - 3 Star

I’ve had a few toxic best friends in my past so I could relate to many aspects of Six Weeks to Toxic, but did find it difficult to read at times. It seemed very wordy making it tough to read, especially as I read mostly at night which made it even more difficult. I found the characterizations interesting and their relationship questionable and found the concept of a chick lit book not centered on finding a man refreshing.

Unfortunately the ending seemed anti-climactic to me. I knew from the title and description of the book that it was about a break up between two best friends so I kept expecting a huge outburst at some point which I suppose sort of came at the end, but it just seemed, well, anti-climactic. After having finished the book, I thought it might have been the point to have things go the way they did (sorry, not trying to ruin the ending here) because of their personalities, especially Bess’s who seems to tip toe around Maxi. And, how do relationships between best friends normally end? This had me questioning many of my past relationships and I concluded that the gradual decent was appropriate as some of my toxic relationships ended similarly. And I think I've said far too much now!

I enjoyed the Toronto details of course and thought that Bess’s career as a sound artist in the movie industry was interesting and the details were just enough to be informative without being overbearing and it was a nice change of pace for a chick lit novel. I quite liked some of the other characters and although I didn’t like him in the beginning, Bess’s love interest grew on me quickly.

 I will definitely read Louisa McCormack’s next novel ‘The Catch’ at some point!

Kathryn - 2 Star

Unfortunately, I was disappointed with Six Weeks to Toxic. The whole time I was reading it I was waiting for something to happen. I would expect that there would be a definite moment when, as the reader, you would be able to see that things were going irrevocably wrong?

The women are clearly very different but I didn’t really get a sense of either one of them, at least not enough to relate to them. The writing style was quite choppy, lots of description with too many similes and metaphors. Sometimes I found this interesting (at one point moving your cold hands in your pockets is likened to ones fingers conducting a symphony for warmth) but it mostly cut into the story making it tough to read.

The main problem for me was that although I sort of liked the main storyteller, Bess, I really had no idea what she got out of her relationship with Maxi. Maxi was quite prickly! I eventually liked some of the supporting characters (like Bess’ parents and the dog) but if you can’t relate to the main people then the whole thing sort of falls apart.

It’s possible that writing about friendship between women is a harder thing to tackle than a romantic story? All in all I liked the idea but felt disappointed by the lack of connection.

Connect with Louisa McCormack:

Monday, November 23, 2009

Hot to Trot by Lou Wakefield

3.5 Star

With her acting career fading, Kate turns to online games as a distraction. When one of her fellow gaming friends becomes injured, she hops on a plane to help out.  But the Andy the Cowboy she knew online and the one she meets in person are completely different, and when he doesn't seem to know anything about her, Kate falters and wonders if she trekked thousands of miles for nothing. Should she stay or go and who directed her there in the first place? 

Lydia - 3 Star

I enjoyed Hot to Trot with the unusual story line even though I did think it was a stretch in places. How the main character, Kate, could travel so far to help someone she only met online actually happens, but how she stays with being unwelcomed and wiggles her way into their lives felt outrageous to me at times. It never felt completely implausible though which is a credit to Lou Wakefield’s writing.

I had a difficult time with the slang in the dialogue meant to capture the ranching voice. I found it wasn’t consistent, only appearing sporadically and I could have done without it as I felt it made the daughter especially seem uneducated (and for some reason was mostly in her dialogue) which she wasn’t. It irritated me that it appeared randomly and would have like it to be used throughout the book or not at all.

I don’t have anything other than that to gripe about. Hot to Trot is an easy read, fast and kept me intrigued enough to find out who the mysterious person was at the other end of the computer. Not my favorite, but not terrible either.

Kathryn - 4 Star

Hot to Trot is a little bit older than those we’ve been reading but we’d read some other novels by Lou Wakefield in the past and thought this one looked like fun! I really enjoyed this mystery/single girl lit and it’s one I would read it again if it ever came my way.

I found the story to be unique, which is definitely challenging with chick lit these days. The heroine, Kate, is not your typical girl looking for a man but more of a girl looking for escape. She decides to up and get on a plane to Canada to help to someone she’s never met in person, just in a backgammon gaming site on the net. A somewhat risky venture I would have thought! However, when she ends up on the doorstep of “Andy the cowboy” he turns out to be crazy, sullen and moody, but not crazy!

I found that the characters were fresh-they were funny but endearing, quirky but familiar and kept me interested. I also enjoyed that the scene (a ranch in British Columbia) was new and it is written so that I had a great visual of the setting even if I’ve not spent much time on a ranch myself!

There were a few things that irritated though- occasionally these Canadian cowboys came out with very English expressions. This seemed like something that could have been avoided? I also found some of the dialogue (especially between Kate and friend Gary) to be complicated and tough to read. So…I just began to happily skip these little parts and get back into the great light read!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

An Offer You Can't Refuse by Jill Mansell

3.5 Star

Lola Malone, a book store manager, had successfully pushed the past away, until her teenage love, Doug, crosses her path ten years later. Still attracted to him after all these years, she wonders whether he can forgive her for breaking his heart all those years ago and if love can blossom again. It's why she broke up with him she was never able to forget. His mother's generous offer was one she couldn't refuse and is something Doug must never find out whether they get back together or not. 

Lydia - 3 Star

An Offer You Can't Refuse is a quick read and it definitely hooks you from the get go. I enjoyed it more at the beginning, became less interested at points, and thought it was terribly predictable (which might have been why I became indifferent at times). Suitably cheerful, it’s single girl chick lit where girl looses boy and girl’s friends are fun and her mother is a little odd and his mother is even worse. I laughed out loud in spots, mainly towards the end, which was a nice surprise as I hadn’t until then.

I thought there were some character inconsistencies at times, especially with her friend Sally and I would have liked a bit more expansion of all the other characters as they played a large role in this novel, it was as much about them as the main character.

I don’t really have much to say about An Offer You Can't Refuse other than I didn’t hate it and definitely didn’t love it. It’s somewhere in the middle for me, but then again, most of these types of chick lit are for me. They really aren’t my favorite but if you are looking for something more light and easy to read, this would fit the bill.

Kathryn - 4 Star

I’m a big fan of Jill Mansell and An Offer You Can't Refuse didn’t disappoint me. It was what I expect from her- a detailed, character filled, happy ending type of story. I think I tend to enjoy her novels because the characters engage me from the beginning and although the premise of the story is common I still wanted to read it because I liked the characters so much.

The novel begins when young Lola, the main character, is offered money to break up with her boyfriend- by his mother. She meets him again later in life and is drawn back to him. I’m not sure I was totally convinced that this man, Dougie, was the love of her life but we’re led to believe that she thought it was so I went with it. I was completely compelled to read on simply because I was curious and because the friends and family in her life were great. Her friends Gabe and Sally are hilarious as they end up living together and have nothing in common. Her mother and the man she’s dating made me laugh and Dougie’s mother is like the wicked witch.

It’s what I think of as “gentle chick lit” as in it’s not over the top or out there but still very engaging and would recommend it if you’re looking for a fun read.

Connect with Jill Mansell:

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Beach House by Jane Green

1.5 Star

When 65 year old Nan discovers she may loose her beloved house in Nantucket, she decides to turn it into a bed and breakfast in order to keep it. Filling it with people not only brings in some much needed money, but also breaths new life into the old home and Nan is loving the company. Having added some lost and brokenhearted souls, Nan's son returns home and an unexpected visitor takes them all by surprise. 

Lydia - 2 Star

I was terrified to start The Beach House after my last Jane Green debacle, but was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t hate it as much as Second Chance, but maybe my expectations were just really low.

I didn’t love it, in that I couldn’t put it down or would ever read it again, but I didn’t feel like I was wasting precious moments of my life reading it like I did with the aforementioned work of Green’s. It was fairly predictable, not terribly unique, nor very fast paced. I’m not sure how believable this style of chick lit is when set in the United States. I got to thinking about her past work that takes place in the UK and feel that for some reason this story would have been more believable had it been set there instead. I don’t know why that is, maybe I’ve just read too much Brit Lit from Kathryn over the years and expect this style of story to be set there.

Overall, the writing and editing were much better in The Beach House and it was clear whose voice was speaking (outlined in sections) so it was easy to read. The story, however, I thought was weak with the characters and their various plights not thoroughly explored.

Kathryn - 1 Star

Oh dear I’m afraid I wasn’t exactly thrilled with this chick lit offering. I have really enjoyed Jane Green’s books in the past and am now tempted to re-read some of them again to get my good feelings back for her writing. I know that not every novel can be a winner for every reader but I had high hopes for Jane Green maintaining her usual enticing storylines.

The Beach House centers in on Nan, a woman in her later years who is trying to find a way to save her beloved home Windermere in Nantucket. The house was left to her by her husband who had died and she obviously loves the house. Nan decides that her best option is to run a bed and breakfast which would bring in some money but also fill her house with people which she, and the house, clearly craved.

Each person who ends up at Windermere has their own storyline which is developed in the first two thirds of the book. They all have interesting stories revolving around their marriages or being single but I never felt any of them was explored completely- we are given an outline of quite dramatic problems and then they are all suddenly whooshed to Nantucket where the last third of the book ties them all together.

My general feeling as I finished The Beach House was that we were presented with these quite intense problems and then everything was suddenly tied up and it was over! Sadly, I was partially pleased for it to be over as I’d been a bit bored (perhaps not quite the right word?) and that was purely because we weren’t given enough to grab on to from the beginning.

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