Sunday, February 28, 2010

Rumour Has It by Jill Mansell

3 Star

When Tilly Cole's boyfriend packs his bags and leaves, she decides to move closer to her best friend in a tiny village in the Cotswolds. After being hired as a girl-friday, she becomes immersed in the gossipy town life, trying to avoid Jack Lucas, the center of it all. Told never to succumb to his charm, lest she become another notch on his bedpost, she's determined to follow their advice, but somehow becomes the focus of his charm.  Can she avoid another broken heart? 

 Lydia - 3 Star

I enjoy Jill Mansell’s books well enough, but don’t get completely absorbed or enthralled in them and Rumour Has It one was no exception, but I’m sure her fans won’t be disappointed.  I like her novels well enough, but they wouldn’t be the first on the list for me to read.

The plot of Rumour Has It is well structured and there are many side stories, none of them having any gaps and all seemed to relate to the small town gossip that is the theme of the novel. I thought the ending was cute and funny and liked the unusual relationship that Tilly’s best friend developed which I won’t get into so I don’t spoil it.  

So…I’m rating this as a 3 Star. I think it comes down to loving a book that makes me feel something and getting absorbed in the story and the characters. Unfortunately Mansell’s books don’t seem to do that for me – they never have I’m afraid, even ones I read years ago.  I love chick lit that’s a little heavier (although the side story with her best friend could be described this way, there wasn’t as much focus on it for me to get immersed in it). I generally find Mansell’s books a little too happy all the time and while I like to feel this way, I love to feel the full range of emotions while reading.   

In the future, because I will probably always give Mansell books a 3 star based on those I’ve read in the past (including those that haven’t been reviewed here), I may not review her novels in the future leaving Kathryn to be the sole reviewer for her books because she usually really enjoys them (although for some reason not this one as much – maybe because I’m making her read more teary-emotional stories now – who knows, I guess we’ll see when she reads another one).

Kathryn - 3 Star

Rumour Has It was typical of Jill Mansell’s novels -as I like her books I enjoyed it. Definitely a good holiday read.

Tilly has just ended her relationship (which doesn’t seem to be bothering her much) and ends up moving to a small town and taking a job as a girl-Friday for a man and his daughter.  She’s looking for a new life and ends up completely immersing herself in the town life.  There are several plots throughout the novel and they all intermingle quite well. But it’s a pretty basic story and quite predictable unfortunately so don’t expect to be surprised.

Generally a nice little read and good for a holiday but nothing earth shattering here. I preferred her previous books more, especially the first ones.

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Monday, February 22, 2010

The Prairie Bridesmaid by Daria Salamon

4 Star

Anna Lasko's is stuck. She's uninspired at her job as a school teacher, feels her life isn't moving on when everyone around her is and she's living with her controlling boyfriend. While he's in Europe she's teeters on the verge of breaking up with him. Her friends stage an intervention, her parents just want grandchildren and her grandmother tells it like it is.  Confused by their thoughts as well as her own, she turns to an unlikely source to voice her thoughts as she tries to figure out what to do. 

Lydia - 4 Star

I enjoyed The Prairie Bridesmaid which made me laugh out loud several times!  It also made me grimace due to the heavier subject matter and wanting the heroine, Anna, to figure it out and get on with dumping her controlling boyfriend. Unfortunately this is easier said than done as we see during her journey of self discovery.

There were times when I just wanted her to get on with it though and was frustrated with the character, but it was telling in the way Anna was reluctant to let go as is the case in many circumstances with controlling partners. 

The relationship with her friends was interesting and at times I couldn’t see why they were friends and her parents and co-workers gave me a laugh.  The relationship with her four legged friend was unusual and made the novel a little quirkier.  Anna’s sister’s side story added another dimension to the story and made the it deeper.

Solomon’s characters are well developed, even the secondary ones and the plot moves along nicely. The ending left me wanting more though, as the story doesn’t all wrap up as neatly as much chick lit does.

Anyone having a hard time breaking up with someone or interested in relationship dynamics should find The Prairie Bridesmaid an interesting read. 

Kathryn - 4 Star

The Prairie Bridesmaid was really fun, despite the somewhat heavy content, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first picked it up so I was happy I brought it with me to read on holiday!

Anna’s friends are all very different but they all seem to support her in their own way while still dealing with their own various stages of life. I liked them for the most part. Her parents are pretty funny- kind of scary actually but I guess as they’re not mine they were funny!  Anna has a sister who is on a strange journey of self-discovery and I liked her as part of the plot- made Anna more real to me.

One of the things I particularly liked about this novel was that Daria Salamon gave quite clear characters to the people Anna works with in the English department at her school.  They worked their way in to the story as support and irritation!  It was nice to be able to get a lot of Anna’s life from her co-workers- often times I find that those relationships are a bit weak.

All in all I enjoyed The Prairie Bridesmaid a lot- not sure about the squirrel but I guess that’s a matter of taste!

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Salem Falls by Jodi Picoult

4 Star

Jack St. Bride lands in Salem Falls after being released from prison after being wrongfully accused of having a sexual relationship with one of his students. He takes a job as a dishwasher at the diner, desperate to escape his past and start rebuilding his life. As he begins a relationship with Addie, the diner’s owner, the town gradually realizes why he’s there and his life becomes more complicated than he ever wanted and he's no longer able to run from his past. 

Lydia - 3 Star

I didn’t find my first Jodi Picoult novel a huge success and although I enjoyed it and never at any point did I hate it and want to put it down, I found it just didn’t grab my attention like I hoped.  The problem might have been that I read the Jeffrey Archer’s novel ‘A Prisoner of Birth’ early last year which also featured a trial and a suspect that you want to believe is innocent and results in a lengthy trial.  Unfortunately Picoult’s Salem Falls paled in comparison and I wish we had read a different one of her novels to start with.

I was intrigued with the beginning of this book, but got bored about a third of the way through and already figured out the end well before I was supposed to.  I could appreciate Picoult’s writing and marveled at her ability to paint her characters in just a few short strokes so they were memorable even if they only played a small part in the story and if you needed to remember them later, you could. 

Unfortunately I wanted more from Salem Falls and won’t be deterred from reading another of Picoult’s novels, but I would recommend Archer’s book over this one if you’re looking for a fast paced story about a trial.

Kathryn - 5 Star

Salem Falls is the first book I’ve read of Jodi Picoult and I really enjoyed it.  I was passed this one by my mother which generally means it’s not chick lit so I was expecting something a bit heavier but it was an easy read which was a pleasant surprise. 

Set in Salem Falls, this novel naturally leads you to thinking about the Salem witch trials- it’s not focused on this which took me by surprise. From the beginning you’re not really sure if the relationship was real or a figment of the imagination of the teenager. You want to believe though that he’s innocent.

My only criticism was that I found that the amount of different characters Picoult introduces quite confusing but because it’s written so well you want to keep reading anyway. She doesn’t tend to bog you down with lots of descriptive paragraphs and leans more towards plot development which I definitely liked in this type of novel.

I don’t want to give anything away about the many twists and turns but I did have an idea how it would end before I got there but this didn’t stop me from not wanting to put it down though! Salem Falls is definitely worth the read!

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Friday, February 5, 2010

Welcome to Temptation by Jennifer Cruisie

1.5 Star

Sophie and Amy Dempsey are two sisters hoping to boost their film making career by traveling to Temptation to make a documentary for their brother’s ex-girlfriend, Clea, an aging film star. When they all move in to Clea's old farmhouse various men show up, offering temptation, which the sisters don't balk at and soon the small town becomes unraveled as secrets surface, mystery ensues and the movie takes a twist.  Can the sisters hold it together long enough to get their movie made? Will the town stand for it and will they be led into temptation along the way? 

Lydia - 2 Star

Jennifer Crusie has large following with many published novels and I thought we’d give her a try after having read some great reviews but unfortunately I was disappointed with this book. Welcome to Temptation just didn’t meet my expectations given many of the reviews I read, but it could be that I just wasn’t as interested in this style of story.

I started to enjoy the book more towards the end, but felt getting there was hard work, which is not what I look for in a novel.  I wasn’t sure how I felt about the relationship that developed and how many characters I had to figure out and wasn’t sure they were even necessary to the story, although towards the end when a small town mystery develops I found out why they were hanging around. 

I couldn’t appreciate the main characters or relate to them on any level and found the plot to be slow in moving along.  There’s loads of sex in this novel which I have no idea is part of her appeal or if she does this in every novel, so if you’re looking for a embellished Harlequin type novel with some twists and turns and many characters this might fit the bill.

Overall, I was disappointed with Welcome to Temptation and sadly may shy away from Crusie’s novels in the future.

Kathryn - 1 Star

This single girl chick lit gave me some feelings.  The storyline could have been good but I’m not sure I liked it at all. The sisters seemed to be carrying a lot of secrets which develop throughout the novel and help to make up the action parts of the story.

There are quite a few people involved and some of them seemed unnecessary to the plot.  We spend a lot of time developing the relationship of one of the sisters with the mayor of Temptation which leaves much of the rest of the plot sort of hanging in limbo for the first 200 pages.  I really had no idea what was supposed to be happening until the middle of the book- it was a long read to get to the action and I found this incredibly annoying.  The action portion was good -but overly complicated in getting there.

Perhaps I didn’t relate to it because I found very few of the characters appealing or in-depth enough to keep me interested.  The actress, Clea, is a key person in the action plot but we know very little about her, she rarely has any speaking parts and she doesn’t seem to have much appeal.  I did like the mayor and his daughter and even liked quite a few of the townspeople…but not enough.

All in all though Welcome to Temptation didn’t make me think very happy thoughts!

Connect with Jennifer Cruisie:

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Bright Lights, Big Ass by Jen Lancaster

 4.5 Star

Jen Lancaster has compiled a series of short stories and emails to her friends to make up a snapshot of her life as a writer during a period where she and her husband are trying out a new, less affluent, lifestyle due to some unfortunate circumstances. In between spying and reporting on her neighbours, she tells us how life in the big city isn't all parties and stilettos in this hilarious compilation. 

Lydia - 4.5 Star

I laughed my ass off throughout much of Jen Lancaster’s most recent book. It was the first we read by her and we’ve got another one already in the pile next to my bed to read!  I wasn’t sure I would appreciate her style which can be sarcastic and occasionally condescending and completely narcissistic, which she fully admits, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

This is not a novel, but a compilation of short stories about her life.  There are stories, letters and emails to her friends, all equally hilarious and I could not put this book down and chuckled out loud often while reading, irritating my husband to no end while he tried to read his serious ‘dragon-themed’ fantasy novels. 

My only annoyance with this book and the only reason I rated it just shy of 5 stars is because of the foot notes.  They jerked me out of her stories multiple times and I wasn’t sure why they weren’t just included in parentheses so I didn’t have to stop reading, scroll down, and then back up again. 

Other than that, I’m really looking forward to reading more of her books and I’ve learned from following her on twitter that she’s started her first work of fiction so I can’t wait to read that too.

Kathryn - 4.5 Star

I have to admit that at first I wasn’t sure about this one- probably because it wasn’t a novel (and I’ve been reading so many of those) so it took me a few minutes to get into it. But this book is hilarious!  

I laughed out loud reading about her animals and her quirky relationship with her husband and there’s one chapter about her getting back into the gym which made me giggle through the whole thing.  Don’t want to give too much away as each chapter is unique.

She’s snarky and funny but I didn’t find her bitter at all so if you’ve read reviews that say she’s too moody just read this for yourself.  My only criticism was the use of footnotes which I found distracting throughout and it’s the only reason it didn’t get a full 5 star review.


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Monday, February 1, 2010

A Spring Affair by Milly Johnson

5 Star

Lou Winter reads an article about spring cleaning in her dentist's waiting room and decides to follow it's advice, unaware just how much this decision will change her life. As she starts to clear the clutter she begins to see her life more clearly, while her husband, Phil, grows disgruntled that she's become more interested in cleaning up than tending to his needs. The more she cleans her house, the more she feels the need to clean up her life, but can she make the necessary changes?

Lydia - 5 Star

Move over Jane Green, Jill Mansell and Madeleine Wickham, there’s a new queen in town! I absolutely LOVED A Spring Affair and think it deserves more than 5 stars!  After reading it, I thought Milly Johnson could easily become my new favourite chick lit author and when I read another one of her books (review of The Yorkshire Pudding Club coming soon) I awarded her this title and will read anything and everything she writes now.  I absolutely LOVE finding fabulous new authors and can’t wait to sink my teeth into the rest of her books and those she writes in the future.

Her characters are so well developed, her stories flow effortlessly and the tension ramps up and keeps you reading.  I was hooked on this story immediately and could not put the book down and read it in 3 days. This book even had me clearing out clutter almost as soon as I had begun the reading it (and this is not something I’m very good at).  My only complaint is that it kept me up late three nights in a row so I was half asleep while reading it and I was upset that it ended so quickly! 
I can’t wait to read more of her novels and my last complaint is that they take 1-2 months to order from Amazon Canada and I’m glad we got Kathryn’s sister to bring two of her books when she visited over the holidays, but I’m sure this will change as Milly Johnson gains international notoriety for her fantastic stories.

Kathryn - 5 Star

Really loved A Spring Affair - definitely a “coming into her own” kind of story and a great positive read.

Lou is living with a man who treats her like a personal slave- although she doesn’t see it this way.  He’s had affairs in the past and she’s tried to put these behind her and make the best of a relationship she really feels is right for her.  At the beginning of the novel Lou picks up an article about spring cleaning your home- it completely changes her perspective and forces her to take control of her life.

A spring affair appealed to me on more than one level. I get a real kick out of clearing out a few times a year so this jump started me on a mission to tackle the 6 clutter drawers in my house!  It also drew me in because Lou is very likeable. Right from the start you just want her to dump her ridiculous husband but you still feel that she’s trying to do the right thing for herself and so you feel as if you want to cheer her on no matter what decision she makes.  Perhaps the man is worth holding on to?  I also really appreciated Milly Johnson’s other characters throughout the novel.  She has a good way of writing people so that you can understand their motives and position quickly and concisely.  

A Spring Affair is definitely worth reading and be prepared to start tackling the clutter! 

Thank you to Simon and Schuster UK, for our review copy!

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