Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Hating Game by Talli Roland

3.5 Star

Mattie Johns, desperate to save her ailing recruitment company, agrees to star on a dating game show. Confident in her man eating abilities, she knows she’ll win the huge financial prize without suffering heartbreak, even if it means a few bad dates along the way. Then she discovers the twist: her dates are actually with four unhappy ex-boyfriends. Desperate for the reward money, Mattie is determined to proceed at the mercy of the scorned exes, the ambitious TV producer and most of all, herself. Will she make it through to the end to claim the prize?

Lydia - 3.5 Star

I had anticipated reading The Hating Game since being contacted by Talli Roland about reviewing her debut novel. Loving almost anything reality TV related, the premise of this novel intrigued me and I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into it, and I wasn’t disappointed. This novel was fast paced, easy to read and frequently amusing.  I was eager to discover what was going to happen and was rooting for Mattie to figure everything out. 

At times I loved Mattie’s take no prisoners attitude both professionally and in her personal life, but other times it grated on me, from how she treated her best friend and her exes. I had hoped she would soften a bit earlier in the process, but somehow I still cheered for her and wanted her to want more from her life, to break down the barriers she had and in the end I wasn’t disappointed by her transformation and realizations. 

Mattie’s observations throughout the book made me chuckle frequently and I found even her most insensitive thoughts could be quite amusing at times. I enjoyed the quirky secondary characters and thought the alternating perspectives from character to character provided a solid grasp on their thoughts and motives.

The Hating Game made me wonder about the reality TV process and just how far the shows would go for ratings and I’m wondering if I’ll view them differently now when I leap back into them in the new year. I also wondered throughout the novel about being in Mattie’s position and having to interact with ex boyfriends I had no desire to see again – or who might have some bones to pick with me. The entire premise of this novel was so interesting that I wonder how the scenario would play out on an actual reality TV show!

I look forward to more from Talli Roland!

Kathryn - 3.5 Star

I thought the premise of this storyline was great- I’ve heard that there are perhaps other novels that include the same sort of idea but I haven’t read any of those so to me the dating your exes game show was original and fresh!

I found main character Mattie Johnson a bit dry and a in reality a little bit scary! She was given some warmth when discussing the “one that got away” but as she’s completely in denial about his being the one for most of the novel it made sense that she joins the cast of this bizarre show entirely for the cash prize.   Mattie’s voice was particularly funny at times and I did enjoy her internal ramblings about the cast and show and her perseverance to see it through to the end. 
I also enjoyed the other voices and liked that we were given the perspective of more than one person throughout , it made the plot less about a woman looking for love (or cash prizes) because it included the workings of making a reality TV show with the voices of the producers, hair & makeup artists etc. Wow- hope it’s not quite that bad for the contestants on the ones I watch!

I was a little disappointed occasionally that we were given such brief overviews of the dates which made it harder to warm to her exes and really understand what the audience saw in the aired episodes and I would have liked a few more details in regards to location descriptions sometimes but all in all I enjoyed The Hating Game and am looking forward to another Talli Roland novel!

Thanks to Talli Roland for providing the review copy! All opinions are our own.

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Friday, December 24, 2010

Naked in Knightsbridge by Nicky Schmidt

2.5 Star

Jools Grand is struggling with threats from her crazy landlord amidst other mounting debts when her cleaning company suffers a fatal blow: a client’s house was set on fire.  Now jobless, and in serious danger of becoming homeless, a desperate Jools decides to auction herself online in a marriage of convenience. She even starts dreaming of finding romance with her scheme, but as the bidding war between two unavailable men continues, Jools soon discovers that everything has a price. 

Lydia - 3 Star

As the synopsis eludes, Naked in Knightsbridge is quirky, unique and full of unusual characters. I loved the cover of this novel. It intrigued me into finding out what the story was all about and this easy read provided some laughs for me, but unfortunately I did find it a bit frustrating at times. 

I really wanted Jools to be able to figure it all out, to get away from all the crazies and not to be quite so ditzy and ignorant about everything. There were times I wanted to scream at her bumbling and found I wasn’t really able to relate to her character because of it. If she hadn’t been quite so ditzy about everything, I might have become more attached.  She was likeable enough and I was rooting for her to sort herself out, but I couldn’t quite understand how she’d made such a mess of her life and how she was going about fixing it.

I had difficulty with a few characters that I wasn’t fond of, including Jools’ father and both of her ‘suitors’. I realize we weren’t supposed to like them, but it made reading about them difficult because I really grew to hate them and couldn’t see any redeeming qualities in any of them and wanted to find some in a few of them at least. The only exceptions really were Jools’ best friend and my favourite character, who was the homeless man, Skuttle, that Jools befriends.  

The letters at the beginning of each chapter, similar to those in the Shopaholic series, were amusing and gave me some chuckles, but Schmidt has her own unique voice and her story, along with this cast of quirky characters, was just as easy to read and held some deeper issues than the Shopaholic series. Jooles is headed for disaster financially to the point of losing the roof over her head, issues we never saw in Shopaholic, and I loved that Schmidt tackled these.

Naked in Knightsbridge did make me laugh and I was curious to see what was going to happen and found myself grinning at the end. Although not my favourite read of the year, I would definitely read another Nicky Schmidt novel.

Kathryn - 2 Star

At first I thought I was going to really like this book because the writing style appealed to me- I found it well written and edited, easy to read and get engrossed in the story.  Unfortunately though, I lost faith in the main character rather early on in the novel and struggled to maintain my interest level.

From the outset Jools is down on her luck financially and her voice is self-deprecating and made me giggle a few times but I soon found myself wanting to kick her behind into gear and to start getting it together.  While there are several fictional characters in chick lit today who have a hard time getting their spending in hand I didn’t find much about Jools that was appealing beyond the initial first few chapters.  She concocts a bizarre plan to sell herself off as a wife to the highest bidder online (which I actually thought was hilarious- if a little scary!) but as soon as the money is in her hands she reverts back to complete irresponsibility and this turned me off entirely.  The appealing part of the spendthrift wanting to go straight was absent for me.  And although I can also appreciate wanting to eat several cupcakes at once I found her obsessive cupcake munching sickening and wondered if she was ever going to start to value herself in any aspect of her life. 

In desperation I tried to relate to other people in the novel and the closest I could come to was the man she marries (at least he was clear about his motives towards her) and his mother (who accepted her whole-heartedly until she really hit rock bottom!)- not exactly ideal as they did nothing to really help Jools find her way!  

All in all I think my feelings about this novel went from high hopes to ugh and I was really disappointed in my end rating.  Hopefully my next read from the same author will draw me into more sympathy for the characters.
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Friday, December 10, 2010

A Year in Review

Season's Greetings everyone!

We can hardly believe our first full year of blogging is coming to a close!  What a year it's been with review after review, a redesigned site, discovering twitter, starting giveaways and author interviews and more!

We thought we'd wrap up the year with revealing our favourite reads of 2010 including three chick lit and two non-chick lit novels (Lydia cheated and picked four top chick lit novels in case anyone was counting). They're listed below in no particular order...

We hope you all have a fabulous Holiday Season and wish you all the best in the New Year!
Happy Reading!

Lydia and Kathryn
Stay by Allie Larkin

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.  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 was 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....   

Lydia and Kathryn:
I Heart New York by Lindsey Kelk

I Heart New York was fun and fantastic!  Read it while on a canoe trip and was very glad this was the book I chose to take with me.  It’s fast paced with lots of detail and has a little bit of something other chick lit self-discovery novels don’t always have- a woman who’s completely able to admit she doesn’t know what she’s doing!

Lydia: Spin by Catherine McKenzie

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: Divas Don't Knit by Gil McNeil

I LOVED this book- would definitely read it again and am very excited to read the sequel! I don’t knit but throughout I kept thinking I should learn. I even got quite excited about shopping for different wools- colours, textures etc. We’ll see if that actually happens but I figure that the book had to be good for me to be so inspired. Have I mentioned I loved this book?

Lydia and Kathryn:
A Spring Affair by Milly Johnson
Move over Jane Green, Jill Mansell and Madeleine Wickham, there’s a new queen in town! I absolutely LOVED this novel 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...

Lydia and Kathryn:  Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda
Every once in a while I want to read something other than chick lit and am always thrilled when I randomly pick up something wonderful. Secret Daughter wasn’t recommended to us by anyone, rather, I liked the premise of the story, loved the cover and discovered while reading it that I loved the book as well! This beautiful story hooked me from the beginning and I’ve thought about long since finishing.  It would make a wonderful Mother’s Day gift for any of you stumped on what to get your book-loving moms...

Lydia and Kathryn: 
Juliet by Anne Fortier
Juliet is an extraordinary debut! Its intensity, intrigue, scope, history, and detail captivated my attention from the first few pages and didn't disappear once as I devoured the pages. Having been compared to a romantic Da Vinci Code, Juliet crosses so many genres it makes my head spin.  Part mystery, thriller, romance, historical fiction, women's fiction, with humorous contemporary women's fiction or chick lit moments gleaning through, this novel will appeal to fans of any of these genres and anyone just looking for a fantastic read...

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Day the Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan

5 Star

In 1915, with her eighteenth birthday looming, Bess Heath returns home from school to find her family's circumstances drastically changed with her father's recent unemployment. Bess works alongside her mother as a dressmaker struggling to support the family when she bumps into the mysterious Tom Cole who becomes a beacon of light in her dismal days. From a completely different class and world, living off the river and listening to it's whims, Bess becomes intrigued by the rough-hewn riverman. When her family objects, Bess finds herself having to make a choice between her family and the man she has fallen in love with.

Lydia - 5 Star

The Day the Falls Stood Still is a hypnotizing read with depth and detail that astounds. Bubbling with an understated emotion, this delightful debut delves into love, family, duty and the choices that divide.

Although centered around a love story, many other themes swim beneath the surface of this novel including war time strife, economics, politics, theology, and environmental issues just to name a few and that doesn't even delve into the personal issues many characters in this novel face. They are all woven together in a rich tapestry and along with the delightful details of the era and Buchanan's elegant prose, it is not difficult to see why this novel was chosen as a finalist for Canada Reads 2010.   

From the first sentence, I was immediately immersed into the story and the setting. The smallest details were the most powerful and I have such a vivid picture of every location in this novel, yet I never felt bogged down in detail. At times I wasn't even sure if what I was reading was fiction, which is a testament to how skillfully woven this tale is between fiction and the historical events that took place in Niagara Falls at that time.

I really enjoyed Bess's character. A strong female protagonist, she picks herself up and moves forward with each challenge that's thrown at her. She holds herself together for her family and never becomes whiny, needy or hard. She simply carries on. Bess supports her husband, stands by her decision to marry him when others question it, and even when she does herself on rare occasion. At no time did I ever question her love for Tom and it was such a wonderful love story to read, and with the other interwoven themes, this novel stood out for me as a complex story. 

Having been to Niagara Falls multiple times over the years, I've always had enjoyedd the falls, but this novel's portrayal of their beauty, majesty, power and force will have me viewing them differently next time I visit. I will also have much more of an appreciation for the environmental challenges surrounding the falls and how the tourist industry now overshadows them.

I don't often quote from novels, but thought this was lovely and poignant, and it was far from the first or last snippets of prose that I savoured:  "It seems a cruel trick that time contracts when you want to savor it and expands insatiably when you do not."

I am certain I will reread The Day the Falls Stood Still at some point and definitely look forward to reading more from Cathy Marie Buchanan.

Kathryn - 5 Star

Sitting down to write my review of this novel I realize that I enjoyed my history lesson and will never go to Niagara Falls with the same eyes again!  Though the story and characters are fictional there seems to be a little bit of truth and legend woven in to give us a great novel.
I found myself getting involved in the story of Bess and her family from the very first pages.  Bess is an incredibly strong and determined woman and I couldn’t put the book down. I did find that a lot of time was covered in the last half of the novel though and lost a little of my link to the characters.  Though I appreciate that there was a lot of story to cover in relation to the emerging hydroelectric power stations being built- the love story was lost for me because of this. I wish I had had a better grasp of Bess and Tom’s life before he had to leave for war as this might have grounded their love for each other during the second half for me. 
The story of Tom’s love for the river entirely took over the plot and although I felt I’d lost a bit of Bess during this period it does nothing to change the fact that the novel itself is passionate.  There is a great intensity felt throughout which is backed up by the fact that I could visualize the intensity of the actual water of the falls and I felt I could hear the rumble of the water falling.  Tom had been raised to almost worship the river and it’s almost impossible to imagine any other outcome.
Thank you to Harper Collins for providing the review copy. All opinions are our own.

Connect with Cathy Marie Buchanan:

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Talli Roland Stuck on a Desert Island

If Talli Roland, author of The Hating Game, was stuck on a desert island, how would she fare...

1. If you could only have one book with you, what would it be?
The Time Traveller’s Wife. It’s such a great story plus it’s quite long, so it would take me a while to get through it.

2. What one luxury item would you want to be stranded with?
A fuzzy flannel blanket. I have the unique ability to be cold in any temperature, and a nice warm blanket makes everything right in the world.

3. What is the one practical item you would want to have with you to use?
The SheWee, so I could relieve myself while I’m standing. Sounds foul, I know, but I just can’t pee crouching down.

4. Would you enjoy the solitude, even briefly, or would it drive you crazy?
I’d love being alone. I could sing to my heart’s content without anyone telling me to stop my caterwauling, and no-one would ridicule my love of Bon Jovi.

5. If you could be stranded with one other person, who would you want it to be?
I think we might eventually kill each other, but I’m going to say my husband. He’s from the desert (well, Egypt) so he knows how to deal with sand and such, although he’s rubbish at building sand castles!

6. What modern technology would you miss the most?
The television! How would I get my reality TV fix? Disaster.

7. What food or beverage would you miss the most?
Wine, wine and wine. I can’t imagine a world without wine o’clock.

8. How many days do you think you would cope without rescue?
I think I could cope for quite a few days. I’m good at lolling around, wasting time and doing nothing.

9. What is the first thing you would do when rescued?
Drink wine, watch television and show off my sunburn (I don’t tan).

10. What would be your first Tweet or Facebook update upon your return?
Who knew sand could get so many places?

Help Talli take on Amazon December 1st by ordering her debut novel, The Hating Game today!  Check out our blog post about her efforts to make a splash with Amazon and my mini review here.... 


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