Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Spin by Catherine McKenzie

4.5 Star

Take thirty year old party girl, Kate, shove her in rehab for an undercover assignment to  land her dream job, which she originally blew because she showed up still drunk from the night before. Add the ‘it girl’ of the moment, actress Amber Sheppard, that Kate is to get the scoop on, many dark tales of addiction and this is where we find Kate struggling to have it all.

Lydia - 5 Star

Catherine McKenzie’s engaging debut novel has proven her as one to watch.  Her voice is fresh, new and compelling. Spin is a witty, fun, laugh out loud novel, yet had a grittier subject matter and I absolutely could not put it down.

I found the heavier subject of addiction offset nicely by Kate’s highly entertaining thoughts and antics along the way, so it didn’t come across as too heavy, nor did it feel too light.  Kathryn felt this might have been made a little too light, but I think that comes from the first person perspective.  Kate doesn’t take rehab seriously because she feels she obviously doesn’t have a problem with alcohol, so it does come across this way at times, but I think it’s a reflection of her character, rather than light being made of the subject.

Kate’s character is full of flaws, yet she’s vulnerable, funny and just wants to follow her dreams, but seems to keep getting in her own way.  I rooted for her throughout her journey of self discovery.  Kate’s character wasn’t the only quirky one in the bunch and the supporting characters were all so well developed that I ended up cheering them on as too.

My only concern when I started reading SPIN was the lack of specific setting.  This novel could take place anywhere and at first I wasn’t able to get grounded in a place, but this disappeared almost immediately and I found it unique to be able to picture this taking place almost anywhere.

I loved Spin, will probably reread it and will definitely be putting Catherine McKenzie on my must read list!   Add this to your summer reading!  Better yet, go get it now!

Kathryn - 4 Star

To be very truthful at first I felt like I was reading the movie 28 days.  I think that in the end though that should be taken as a compliment to the author because she wrote a novel about a difficult and not at all funny topic and made it light enough that you felt like you were reading a blockbuster film- does that make sense?

Kate is trying to get her dream job at a music magazine but unfortunately blows the interview as she’s sort of still drunk from the night before. Instead she is offered a job following the latest “it girl” to rehab where she must befriend her and write an exposé.

I found the story a bit depressing at the beginning and just wanted to shake Kate out of her stupor but it was funny so I kept giggling and then going back to being mad at her.  It was once she enters rehab that you begin to understand her actual personality a bit more- I guess because she’s not being outrageous due to alcohol.  

I loved the original story line and it was refreshing to read a chick lit novel that tackled some harder topics while still keeping it light, entertaining and readable.  It reminded me a little bit of the Marian Keyes novel Rachel’s Holiday which I loved years ago. I was a little disappointed in some of the predictability towards the end of Spin - hence my rating, but all in all it was really worth reading.

Thank you to HarperCollins Canada for our review copy!

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Table Manners by Mia King

3 Star

Deidre McIntosh is determined to make her new venture a success and works tirelessly on developing her own cookie line. While navigating her boyfriend’s wealthy family where she doesn’t quite fit in, especially around his sister who becomes determined to see the back of her, things don't go exactly as she planned. Can she pull things together and see all of her dreams come true? 

Lydia - 3 Star

I enjoyed this single girl tale. Table Manners was well written, full of mouth watering recipes (there’s even a recipe section in the back) and I enjoyed the character and her adventure, however this book just didn’t grab me and I thought this chick lit novel was relatively average.

This is chick lit with a heroine who has drive and determination and a career she loves.  There are laugh out loud moments and some mouth watering descriptions of high end cookies and meals she creates.  I got the impression throughout the novel that Deidre would have landed on her feet if she was unsuccessful at saving her new company, her man and/or both and I found that refreshing, while at the same time I don’t think it gave me enough to latch onto. The stakes didn’t seem particularly high maybe.

I didn’t get sucked in or emotionally involved as I would have liked to and although I had fun watching Deidre flounder to try and save all that was dear to her, I just wasn’t blown away by this novel.

I thought Table Manners was a solid 3 Star.  I didn’t hate it and would gladly read another of Mia King’s novels, but I didn’t adore it either, so it’s smack dab in the middle.

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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Love Struck by Chantel Simmons

4 Star

Poppy Ross discovers her seemingly devoted husband is having an affair, but just as she's about to confront him, he's struck by lightening. When he regains consciousness she realizes that he’s lost all memory of the past three months, including when the affair started. Instead of confronting him, Poppy decides to try and turn herself into the woman he was seeing so he won't be tempted to stray again, often with disasterous results and it just might be the worst idea she's ever had.

Lydia - 4 Star

Love Struck was laugh out loud funny and contained thoughtful insights about marriage. Poppy’s journey is both amusing and heartfelt. Her pain and confusion is palpable as she acknowledges her husband’s infidelity and tries to become the other woman she now knows he is attracted to, thinking it will fix her marriage. She does this while ignoring the situation with her husband who was struck by lightening and lost all memory of the last three months, when the affair started.

I laughed frequently during Poppy’s attempts at transformation and was cheering for her to overcome her insecurities, often times cringing at her decisions and found myself wanting to yell at Poppy and Parker throughout the novel.  I cared about these characters and was rooting for them to figure it all out.

This novel captured my attention and I was eager to find out how Poppy and Parker’s journey would end.  My only concern was that I found the beginning a little slower and I was worried I wouldn’t enjoy this book (Kathryn didn’t feel this way), but I continued reading and was pleasantly surprised.  Once I became fully engulfed in their situation, I couldn’t put the book down, wanting to see what happens.

Poppy could be considered a Canadian Bridget Jones and she certainly had elements to her that made me laugh out loud with her antics and decisions, self doubt and insecurity.  This novel portrayed her self discovery well and I didn’t feel it was too much of a leap as I have found with some novels in the past. 

I would highly recommend Love Struck to anyone looking for a good laugh and a light hearted read and I will definitely keep an eye out for future novels from Chantel Simmons.

Kathryn - 4 Star

I really liked this one which is apparent when I read it in just a few days I guess! Definitely a fun read!  Love Struck is funny and definitely has the silly laugh out loud moments you’d expect, but the soul of the novel- the examination of her marriage- is still there at every turn.  I found myself wondering throughout if she was ever going to tell her husband that he’d been seeing this other woman, if she was really going to try and pretend it hadn’t happened and if this was something I would do or not?  If you really loved him would you just want to pretend it hadn’t happened and restore your marriage?  

Chantel Simmons also has a good way of creating supporting characters that are clear but not intrusive- I like that as it lifts the main characters.

I think I would have liked a bit more about her job as a life coach and a bit less of her trying to turn into the other woman- but those bits were pretty funny so it’s tough to want less of them really…Either way can’t wait for the next one!

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Love Market by Carol Mason

4.5 Star

A chance sighting of Celine's ex-boyfriend, Patrick, on a busy London street during her anniversary celebration with husband, Mike, sparks an unusual reaction. Three years later, her marriage has fallen apart and she's running her own professional matchmaking service, raising her daughter and grieving her marriage. When an unexpected email from Patrick arrives, she finds herself longing for the past, and as she tries to figure out just exactly what she wants her future to hold, her ex-husband gives her an unusual proposal that makes her question everything. 

Lydia - 4.5 Star

I really enjoyed The Love Market.  It was a thoughtful, insightful book on marriage and the path not taken.  Celine’s marriage falls apart and she’s drawn back into the world of an old flame, Patrick who she never managed to forget.

The writing style was different in than most chick lit novels. It was written with more depth, poetically even at times and her attention to details and prose had me rereading sentences – at first, occasionally to get used to the style, and then to wonder at her writing abilities and the thoughtful and insightful commentary on marriage. The writing wasn’t overdone though and it was still easy to read (unlike a few other attempts at more literary chick lit I have read). 

This novel wasn’t predictable which was refreshing, although I wasn’t sure if I loved the ending.  I haven’t forgotten the characters, which I sometimes do after reading mediocre chick lit and this is a novel I might even read again at some point.

The Love Market was a great read and I will definitely add Carol Mason’s novels to my must read list.

Kathryn - 4.5 Star

It’s interesting that having read many chick lit novels you can still come across something that feels new.  The storyline was not so much new as the style of writing and for me to notice how something is written it has to be quite different!  I’m definitely not a writer!

The appeal to the story is that for most women there is probably always the one that either got away or we left behind and Carol Mason dumps us right into the what ifs of our lives. There are many (many) very insightful comments and suggestions about marriage and the differences between men and women throughout the novel. I stopped several times and re-read things- agreeing with Mason thoroughly.  Maybe this is why I found it so interesting- it wasn’t written with the same quick flow as most chick lit and forced a slower and more attentive read.

The Love Market is a fabulous novel and would gladly read another! 

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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

3.5 Star

Henry, suffering from 'Chrono Displacement' disorder, travels randomly in time, dropping naked in any given year, past or present, of his life.  He drops into the clearing Clare was sitting in at six years old and a tender friendship was born. Their lives cross and pass over time as she ages, and Henry always remains a perfect gentleman. When they meet in real time years later, a romance blossoms and they fall in love never knowing when he'll disappear and reappear from their lives.

Lydia - 4 Star

We’re a little late reading The Time Traveler’s Wife and I think this affected our opinions, having heard such rave reviews about this book.  I enjoyed it overall, but wasn’t sure it lived up to all the fantastic things I had heard about it prior to reading it myself. 

At first I found the time traveling distracting and slightly confusing, but once I settled into the book, it didn’t get in the way of my reading.  I thought this unique story was written beautifully and the character’s richly portrayed.  Clare and Henry remained in my mind long after I read the novel.

I did however find the book started to drag somewhat for me about a third of the way through.  I think it was the anticipation of something happening and I definitely wanted to know what it was, but it seemed to take forever to find out and not enough seemed to happen in between to satisfy my patience.

Unfortunately I’m afraid The Time Traveler's Wife didn’t quite live up to the hype for me.  Overall, it was quite good, but I didn’t think it was as fantastic as everyone had said it would be, nor did I bawl my eyes out at anytime which I heard might occur – and I am a romantic sentimentalist so it surprised me that I didn’t!

Kathryn - 3 Star

I must say that having just finished this novel, I’m still not sure if I really liked it. I was happy to find that the back and forth in time wasn’t as confusing as I first thought it was going to be - a testament to the author’s writing.

Henry travels through time and Clare is the woman he marries and she stays in her present time.  The novel follows their relationship and at first it jumps backwards in time frequently as Henry from the future goes back to meet Clare from the past. He actually introduces himself to Clare when she is just a child so she is aware of him her whole life, well before they meet in the present.  Each section is defined by a date and the ages of Clare and Henry which is very helpful.

I’m not sure though that I liked either Henry or Clare much- that may be because I found the whole concept disconcerting and not a reflection on their actual characters?  Henry obviously has had a weird existence but I’m not sure I was entirely feeling for their love for each other- and Clare would have really had to love Henry to spend her life waiting for him to meet her and then staying with someone who kept disappearing. It’s possible that there was a lot of storyline to cover and I lost some of the feeling in it.

I would say it’s worth reading The Time Traveler's Wife but I probably wouldn’t read it again!

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