Saturday, July 31, 2010

Town House by Tish Cohen

4.5 Star

Jack Madigan, an agoraphobic single father, is living in the house his own single rock and roll legend father raised him in until he died when Jack was a child. With his father’s royalty cheques decreasing with each payment, Jack is suddenly about to lose his house. The one he can’t step out of.  Unless it’s after a handful of pills and accompanied by his teenage son, Harlan, whose affection for everything 1970’s includes shag carpeting on his bedroom ceiling. An unexpected visit from the ankle biting girl next door, the sudden presence of the ever chatty real estate agent assigned with selling his house and Harlan’s potential departure from his home force him to take a look outside and consider facing his fears. 

Lydia - 4 Star

Town House was a fun, quirky novel.  It was witty, full of tender moments, laughs and unforgettable characters. The characters were so well drawn, which they had to be as much of the novel takes place in one location – the Town House - that I could picture them perfectly and many will be remain memorable.

Cohen deftly draws the characters in Town House, making this ensemble of eccentrics unforgettable. Their flaws make them seem real and recognizable and the townhouse itself seems to be a character with its own unique personality and history. I could picture them all perfectly and the plot, although predictable, rolled along smoothly.

This novel held emotion as well as humour, from Jack’s struggle with his fear, to the love for his son and the flame still burning for ex-wife. His tenderness towards the little girl next door, Lucinda, who was probably my favourite character, was touching and I loved their relationship. 

I look forward to reading more Tish Cohen and can’t wait to pick up The Truth About Delilah Blue sitting in my to-be-read pile!
Kathryn - 5 Star

Fascinating story platform for this novel and although I found Jack’s agoraphobia a bit depressing I was impressed that Cohen still made the story lively and positive because of the quirky cast of characters.

The most fascinating relationship for me was between Jack and his teenage son Harlan and it occurred to me that this was perhaps because I’ve come across very little father/son communication without female input.  It was great to have their bond be so close despite Jack’s limitations and Harlan’s teenage moodiness and I liked it being just the two of them relying on each other. Their dialogue also gave us an idea of how rich Jack’s possibilities could be as a father (and in other aspects of his life) if he could only overcome his past.  The introduction of the little girl next door is also a window into Jack’s feelings and she’s a pretty odd little kid too- she mirrored a lot of how I would guess Jack felt as a child but was really funny and lively.

I was on the edge of my seat waiting for Jack to suddenly figure out that the world outside his front porch wasn’t going to kill him and I suppose families of people with this illness are always hoping the same thing.  Although this probably doesn’t always work out I was hopeful for Jack throughout and grew attached to all the personalities in this great novel.

Thank you to HarperCollins Canada for our review copy! All opinions are our own.

Connect with Tish Cohen:

Friday, July 30, 2010

Five Days Apart by Chris Binchy

3.5 Star

David saw her first. But when he asks his best friend Alex for help, never having been good with women, things go wrong. Alex sweeps Camille off her feet leaving David angry and confused. They stop talking, but eventually David wonders what’s happening with them and when Alex confides he really likes her, they become a threesome. David develops a friendship with Camille and finds himself pining for her even more. Will David be able to keep from telling Camille he saw her first and that Alex stole her from him?  Would she even care if he did or was she in love with his best friend? And would he ever be able to forgive Alex? 

Lydia - 3 Star

I found Five Days Apart an interesting view on male relationships and the women that come between them.  It was well written and had an intriguing premise, but after my initial interest, I grew weary of waiting for something to happen. I was intrigued to find out how the trio would end up and did like the main character enough to care what happened to him, but was ultimately disappointed.

At times I wanted David to do something, to figure things out and to get on with it. He gradually does, but the progress was slow, which slowed the plot. I can see though, having known many men who move like turtles, how accurate Binchy’s portrayal might actually be, but it didn’t help keep my interest. I didn’t love David’s character. I disliked Alex even less and didn’t even warm much to Camille.

Nephew of the infamous Maeve Binchy, Chris Binchy shows adept writing skills with impeccable scenes, dialogue and description in his American debut. There were scenes in Brazil I could vividly picture and practically taste, but even here action was lacking. Overall I wasn’t as pleased with Five Days Apart as I wanted to be, finding it a dry, slow read.
Kathryn - 4 Star

Have to admit that it took me a little bit to get into this one.  I think it’s because the writing style seemed a little subdued- strangely enough though I actually found I was really enjoying it by the end and found a lot of respect for Binchy being able to convey such a lot without drama and excessive amounts of words.

David is one of those guys that you can’t help feeling like you want to just kick into high gear.  He obviously has a lot going for him but has let himself be completely overshadowed by his friend Alex. Obviously there are going to be things that I just don’t understand, being a woman reading a novel about men written by a man, but I still thought we were presented with a David that should have felt more confident and was frustrated with him at first.  He’s likeable like a puppy though so you’re still hoping he’ll get his act together.

There were moments I found a little strange- like David’s sudden trip to Brasil and that he loses touch with all the people he was doing his course with for a good portion of the novel when they might have helped him when he was pining after Camille?  Maybe it’s a guy thing to crawl into your shell instead of keeping busy?

All in all I thought that it flowed really well, that the three main people connected and that there was a realistic conclusion for them. 

Thank you to Harpercollins Canada for our review copy. All opinions are our own.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Good-Bye To All That by Margo Candela

3 Star

Raquel Azorian is anxious for another promotion, having worked her way from a temp to executive assistant in the marketing department at the Belmore Corporation, a media empire. Just when she’s close to getting everything she’s ever wanted though, her boss suffers a public meltdown, putting her promotion in jeopardy. Raquel tries to capitalize on a chance encounter in a coffee shop, attempting to launch the career of a new star to save her boss and herself when the lives of her family members start to spin out of control and they begin to lean on her for help. With one vengeful executive making her work life miserable and another one trying to sweep her off her feet, will she get the promotion, be able to help her family or both?  

Lydia - 3 Star

Good-Bye to All That was an easy read, but this chick lit tale didn’t quite capture my attention as much as I would have liked.  I did laugh along the way, mostly with her family, but a few scenes later in the novel at work had me giggling. The unpredictable ending took me by surprise which I always enjoy, but overall I didn’t become too attached to the characters of the story.

After a bit of a slow start, I found myself starting to enjoy the supporting characters more than Raquel and am having a hard time putting my finger on just exactly why. Somehow parts of her personality didn’t quite mesh for me and I thought she leaned towards being one dimensional. Candela’s descriptive office politics were interesting, yet I found I wasn’t able to relate to them, never having worked anywhere like it before. 

Unfortunately this single girl tale fell flat for me and wish the focus had been more on her family than on her workplace. I loved the relationship with her mother, and having her come stay with Raquel was an unusual twist instead of the usual single girl going to live back at home. 

I can see the appeal of Margo Candela’s writing in Good-Bye to All That. It was easy to read, and I enjoyed the portrayal of her characters, especially the supporting cast. I would definitely read another of her novels.

Kathryn - 3 Star

I am very torn about this rating and review because there are parts of Candela’s novel that I loved and parts that left me a little cold.  I found the main character Raquel powerful but lacking in warmth so was iffy on my feelings for the story from one page to the next.

My good feelings came from the storyline around Raquel’s job and her scrambling for position at work. I found Candela set a clear scene for her work space and was really interested in the plot at Belmore Corporation.  Raquel is really living mostly for her job at the moment anyway so it makes sense that most of the story took place there. I thought this part was well done and read the novel to the end purely to find out what happened.

The lack of solid feelings between Raquel and anyone else was what left me unhappy.  We are given plenty of other characters that she could have been close to and many of them I liked a lot- including her father and her friend Frappa.  Although we were given many scenes with her family and Frappa I found that she was just a little bit distant and the plot quickly turned back to her job. 

If Belmore Corporation and her friends and family could have provided equal importance in Rachel’s world then I think I would have been able to give Good Bye to All That a higher rating.

Connect with Margo Candela:

Monday, July 19, 2010

Pink Bra and Black Jacket by Rafaele Germain

4 Star

Chloe and her single friends Antoine and Juliette vowed to remain single and unmarried when they created the ‘Single Person’s Manifesto’. Years later Chloe starts to have doubts and wonders if it’s really the life she wants.  Her decision is met with resistance by her friends, but when she remains committed, it ripples through their threesome and other friends and family along the way.  Will she remain single and will she get the love she craves? 

Lydia - 4 Star

Don’t let the title or cover fool you and I didn’t really understand either while reading this novel - maybe I’m just getting used to the repackaged chick lit we’re seeing now, but it doesn’t matter much once you crack the cover. Pink Bra and Black Jacket was an amusing single girl read, full of interesting characters, tales of friendship, family and love and finding yourself along the way.

Pink Bra and Black Jacket was a light-hearted read chick lit read, but I found it held deeper moments. There were passages that had me nodding and pondering relationships, friendships, marriage and commitment. I felt Chloe’s confusion and found her desire to change believable.

The Single Person’s Manifesto was an interesting twist on single girl lit, but in the end this novel was about Chloe wanting love and her journey to find it. I did find her sister’s story a twist from the usual lighter chick lit fare and that one of her best friends was male was an interesting departure on typical chick lit.

I was rooting for Chloe and pulling for all the other characters along the way.  The supporting characters were all well drawn and I wanted to head over to Chloe’s parents for dinner.  It seemed like such a fun place to be as well as Marcus and Juliette’s loft.  The plot rolled along smoothly and I laughed out loud multiple times with this amusing, thought provoking novel.

I’m looking forward to more novels from Rafaele Germain!

Kathryn - 4 Star

I found this tale of single girl (and guy) chick lit completely fun and refreshing!  The fact that it was translated from French was noticeable at the beginning and occasionally throughout but it’s interesting to see that the feel one gets from a good chick lit novel can travel through translation- I would be interested to read the original French though to see if the title made any sense with the original wording?  Because in English I could not see how the title fit at all!

I know this may be silly, but I appreciated that our main character Chloe has three cats and that Germain gives each one of the cats a particular personality and role. Obviously therefore Chloe’s parents and sister are equally well thought out and integral to the plot.  I don’t think this novel would have worked without the supporting personalities and sub-plots as I did feel that the main story was a bit predictable and it’s the fact that there is so much warmth and depth between the relationships that makes their story completely lovable.  I was particularly impressed with there being a core friendship between three people where none of the other friends feels like they got lost in the plot.  Although Chloe is our main focus we are treated to equal knowledge about both Juliette and Antoine. 

I was a little disappointed with a couple of the details- for instance Simon’s parents are given some unusually sad and down trodden characteristics but these don’t seem to fit with a family that moved to France and back- you would expect people with higher spirits to make such a life move?  But maybe I’m just dwelling on a detail…

A very well thought out plot and storyline and I enjoyed Pink Bra and Black Jacket immensely!

Thank you to McArthur and Co. for our review copy. All opinions are our own.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The One That I Want by Allison Winn Scotch

4.5 Star

Tilly Farmer almost has everything she’s ever wanted. Married to her high school sweetheart and loving her career as a guidance counsellor at the same high school they met at, the only thing missing was a baby.  On the day of the school fair, she finds herself in the psychic tent, where an old friend, now a psychic, gives Tilly the gift of clarity. She begins having spells that predict the future – her father drunk again after years of sobriety, her husband packing a u-haul truck - and she panics as they start to become a reality, forcing her to question whether she had really been all that clear about her perfect life in the first place. 

Lydia - 5 Star

The One That I Want was an emotionally charged read that kept me up late tearing through the final pages.  Funny and insightful, this tale of having all you’ve ever wanted and questioning the path not taken, was full of insights on love, marriage, relationships in all it’s forms and growth that can sometimes tear us apart.  Women’s fiction with a deeper emotional tone and a paranormal aspect, this novel was heavier than lighter chick lit fare.

The One That I Want had a strong supporting cast of characters, each one well developed and memorable and contributed to Tilly’s growth, acting as a catalyst or assisting her along the way. I enjoyed watching Tilly’s transformation and seeing her relationships develop with her sisters and her friends. The story moved along seamlessly and although her visions become predictable, the ending definitely wasn’t.

The clarity Tilly was given was an interesting twist. What would you do if we were given the ability to see your future? I’m sure we all have something we wished we could have foreseen, but I’m not convinced it was absolutely necessary for the novel. Maybe I’m just envious at not having that power myself several times over, but thought the novel might have packed a bit more of a punch if she had been able to figure it out for herself.

I found Winn-Scotch’s writing drew me right into the story, made me nostalgic for high school in a few short strokes and portrayed the small town setting so well that I was able to relate to it, from the parading football stars to the small town gossip, none of which I have ever experienced.  Having been the first Winn Scotch novel I read, she’s now on my must read list when I’m looking for chick lit with a heavier tone.

Kathryn - 4 Star

A tale of chick lit for certain this novel travels from couple to single instead of the reverse.  I found myself laughing a lot at the beginning (and throughout actually) simply because Tilly Farmer is such a positive person that her giddiness made me giggle.  Tilly realizes soon enough that the perfect life she’s built is not quite so solid but I still found her positive and uplifting despite the pain of her family life and her own marriage ending.

I think that the novel worked because Allison Winn Scotch has the ability to build an entire history for her character.  We are given Tilly’s complete story from childhood to present and from the description of her town and her highschool (that she still works in) we are aware that Tilly is very proud of her life.  Also, despite her family being a source of trial and burden for her, you can see that their family unit cares deeply for each other and her friends are also key in the life that she has built for herself. The life she thought she wanted was perfect. There was so much resting in her belief that these were all the things she needed that it was hard to see it come crumbling down around her. 

I found the introduction of Tilly’s visions a little strange at first but soon came to accept them as part of the process- I kept thinking though that although they were useful for the storyline they would also have probably been useful serving the public perhaps and it irked me a bit.  If someone could actually foresee the future or pinpoint someone’s location from looking at a photograph it would be invaluable.  But hey- it’s a story so I had to let that go!

Connect with Allison Winn Scotch:

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Stay by Allie Larkin

5 Star

Savannah ‘Van’ Leone has been pining for Peter, since she fell right at his feet in college. Six years later, she’s standing across from him at the altar, but is next to the bride, her best friend, Janie, in a pumpkin orange bridesmaid dress. After the wedding, during a drinking binge to drown her sorrows, she impulsively buys a German Sheppard online. While trying to figure out her life, where she’s headed and wondering how to handle her relationship with the newlyweds when they return, Joe sits calmly – and sometimes not so calmly – by her side. 

Lydia - 5 Star

If I could recommend only one book to read this summer it might very well be Stay.  There’s some stiff competition but I adored this book from Joe’s doggie antics to Van’s journey of self-discovery.  This book captured my heart - so much so that I wanted to reach out and wrap my arms around Van at every turn.  Stay is about unrequited love, finding oneself and starting over and is wrapped in warmth and humour. It’s touching, charming and full of laugh out loud moments along the way. It can’t get much better than that with chick lit in my opinion.

I almost finished Stay in one sitting, which is a rarity for me. If I’d started the book an hour earlier I would have, but droopy eyes and not wanting to miss anything forced me put it down. Then I picked it right back up with my morning coffee. I didn’t want this book to end and will definitely read it again!

Stay is so simply written, yet carries such emotional weight. I was floored by the writing and tried to study it while reading but would get carried off by the story again and forget trying to figure out how Allie Larkin had written it. 

I hadn’t laughed as hard with a novel as I did when Van buys Joe and hadn’t connected and rooted for a character this much in a while. Van’s character, as well as all the others, were so well developed and their motivations and intentions were clear and the plot rolled along seamlessly and tugged at my heart strings until the very last word.

Stay hit me the way Jennifer Weiner’s Good in Bed did so many years ago and if I get around to redoing my Top 10 list, something’s getting bumped.  I wish I could give it more than a 5 star rating! Don’t miss this fantastic debut by Allie Larkin.  I can’t wait to read more of her and she’s now at the top of my must-read list.

Kathryn - 5 Star

This chick lit novel was all about freedom for me and I loved it.  From the very first few paragraphs of Stay I felt like I was reading a movie which is pretty clever given that the text wasn’t description heavy in the slightest. 

Allie Larkin, for me, is an excellent writer. I felt completely connected to her main character, Van, without losing touch with anyone else in the story.  Van’s voice is wacky and funny but her character has also got a lot of depth.  I was impressed that her background gave us such a solid stage to set her life and I was personally touched by her recent past and her very special relationship with her mother.  Though Larkin manages to convey her obvious pain to the reader she also makes much of the light and love between Van and her mother-so it’s certainly not depressing.

Van adopts a puppy who took over much of the middle of the novel (and Van’s life) and was hilarious.  Wonderful dog inclusion! It didn’t take anything away from the people part of the story at all and made everything even more movie-like for me!  I also loved Van’s love interest and the people he brought into the story along with him- but it wasn’t one of those cheesy movie “love is in the air” type things…their relationship had a realistic development I thought.

A great read and bring on the next novel please Allie Larkin!

Connect with Allie Larkin:

Thursday, July 1, 2010

City Dog by Alison Pace

2 Star

Amy and her West Highland white terrier, Carlie, live in New York City where Amy dreams of writing The Great American Novel, but finds herself writing a best selling children’s series instead staring Carlie. Her writers block transfers to the children’s books, so to avoid questions by her agent and editor she reluctantly agrees to star, along side Carlie, in a television show about them, when things start to go wrong. 

Lydia - 3 Star

Unfortunately this single girl tale didn’t grab me as much as I would have liked. I’m not sure I’m the best judge though, having not only recently separated from my husband but left my dog with him as well, and I found myself struggling with this chick lit novel.

The concept of three narrators was interesting and I laughed at the Carlie’s narration, amused because I could just picture the doggie thoughts racing and distracted.  Alison Pace definitely has the doggie antics down.  But I wasn’t sure about Robert McGuire’s narration. I found myself jumped out of the flow of the novel, which Carlie’s also did, but I was more amused with the doggie thoughts than those of Amy’s fictional character.

I also grew tired of Amy’s lack of movement forward. She came across as very depressed and with it being three years after her marriage dissolved, I wanted to shake her to get it together (and prayed this won’t be me in three years – see, maybe not the best judge). I didn’t feel much connection to her, or any of the other characters really and wasn’t sure about her love interest, nor did I feel much of a connection even between them.

In the end, I was left with how wonderful doggie love is and how much I missed my dog, but didn’t take away much else from this novel – except maybe how I don’t want to be in the same place as Amy three years from now!

Kathryn - 1 Star

I had high hopes for this book as the dog has her own voice and full chapters are dedicated to a dogs’ musings on life- should have been hilarious- but unfortunately the novel wasn’t very funny at all.

Amy is sorting out her life after a divorce and is trying to write the “great American novel”.  Her focus though is on the successful children’s books about her own dog, Carlie, for which she is trying to write the fourth instalment.  City Dog doesn’t have much more of a plot than that and Amy is a bit blank for me.  The plot has tiny ups and tiny downs and not much going on in between. 

I had a hard time getting comfortable with Alison Pace’s writing style.  The writing was good but Amy’s voice was almost entirely introspective and this didn’t leave much room for dialogue or warmth.  I found, mostly at the beginning, that there were phrases clarifying her past stuck in amongst her current thoughts which was confusing and frustrating. The other characters had lots of potential but were given very little depth and some of them were of very little consequence to the storyline.  The exception for me being Bonnie, she was great and could maybe have her own novel next!

My favourite part of City Dog was the moment that all the characters are brought together to watch a TV pilot at Amy’s apartment- my favourite because there was dialogue and emotion felt by Amy at this point and we’re finally given some insight into her as a person- but it’s short-lived and we’re quickly brought back to the original writing style.

All in all I wish that I had felt more for Amy and that Carlie had been given more of a voice to create some comedy and to establish a love of the reader for Amy.

Thank you to Alison Pace for our review copy. All opinions are our own.

Connect with Alison:


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...