Friday, December 30, 2011

To the Moon and Back by Jill Mansell

4 Star

When Ellie Kendall tragically loses her husband she feels her life is over. But eventually she's ready for a new start - at work, that is. She doesn't need a new man when she has a certain secret visitor to keep her company...

Moving to North London, Ellie meets neighbour Roo who has a secret of her own. Can the girls sort out their lives? Guilt is a powerful emotion, but a lot can happen in a year in Primrose Hill...

Amazon Kindle     Kobo Nook 

Kathryn - 4 Star

I have to admit that this one isn’t going to blow your socks off with sudden plot twists and airs of mystery.  The plot is definitely predictable though I was pleasantly surprised that despite foreseeing the end from the beginning, I was really attracted to Ellie and really felt her warmth and personality from the get-go.  Ellie’s life has changed entirely from what she was expecting it to be and despite the conflict she’s constantly feeling Mansell doesn’t let this emotion bring down her character or the positive hopefulness of the novel.  Ellie’s new friend Roo does a lot to keep the story upbeat and spontaneous and I loved Roo’s quirky habits, her own sense of conviction and her downright stubbornness when she wanted to turn over a new leaf.

I also really loved the unusual interference of Ellie’s father in law in her life and he had an interesting sub plot going on with a woman he falls in love with- the fact that he’s a lovely man and clearly cares about Ellie is apparent and I appreciated his presence throughout the book immensely. Oddly , towards the end of the novel I noticed that there was absolutely no mention of Ellie’s own family (it’s possible I missed something at the beginning?) and that was a bit bizarre to me considering the emotional start of the story- you would think someone would have turned up to support her?  But that’s my only real complaint about To the Moon and Back so I’m going to assume I missed something.
Another hit for me from Jill Mansell- at one point I was getting a bit disappointed as her novels weren’t gripping me the way that they used to but I think this one and the last one were more my thing and I’m pleased to say that I’m back to being a fan.

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Thursday, December 29, 2011

The House of the Wind by Titania Hardie

3.5 Star
A legendary ruin. An ancient mystery. Will unveiling the past transform the future?

San Francisco, 2007. Madeline Moretti is grieving for her fiancé. Nothing brings her joy any more, and Maddie's grandmother, a fiery Italian, sends her to Tuscany to heal. Here, Maddie is immersed in the mystery of a ruined villa. Destroyed centuries ago in a legendary storm on the Eve of St Agnes, it has been known ever since as the Casa al Vento - the House of the Wind.

Tuscany, 1347. Mia hasn't spoken since her mother's death, and lives in silence with her beloved aunt. One dark night, a couple seek refuge in their villa. Used to welcoming passing pilgrims, Mia is entranced by the young bride's radiance and compassion, but mystified by her reluctance to reveal even her name. Where has she come from, and why must her presence be a secret?

Centuries apart, each searching for a way to step into her future, Mia and Maddie will be haunted by the myth of the woman who walked unscathed from the ruins of the House of the Wind.

Kaley - 3.5 Star

Do you ever find yourself reading a book that has a story that totally captivates you? The House of the Wind by Titania Hardie was one of those books for me. Yes, I only gave it three and a half stars but that had less to do with the plot and more to do with how the book was written.

I enjoyed that there were two stories to tell in this novel – Maddie’s started in 2008 and Mia’s began in 1347. It took quite awhile to discover the link between these two women and while I like how they were connected I wish there was a bit more to it. It’s hard for me to really describe it without giving anything away so I’m sorry if that doesn’t make much sense! Each character had an interesting enough story on its own but weaving them together created a sense of mystery and intrigue that kept me reading. 

I did not, however, enjoy the way the stories were told. It changed viewpoints every chapter and I didn’t like how the chapters always seemed to end abruptly – especially in Mia’s story. It was like I was constantly dealing with cliffhangers. Also, some dates were skipped and other parts that I would have liked more explanation on were glossed over. Hardie sometimes tried too hard to be mysterious and doesn’t give a lot of details which didn’t mystify me, it was just annoying. For example, Maddie’s at home and someone knocks on the door. Very little detail is given and the reader is left to assume who was visiting her until two chapters later, after reading the chapter on Mia. I suppose I can understand why it was done that way but it left me a little frustrated.

This was not a very fast paced novel but that didn’t bother me. It was stretched out over a longer period of time which I appreciated because I was able to get the conclusion that I needed for both stories. I was a little surprised when Mia’s time jumped ahead by seventeen years but that allowed everything to be wrapped up in the best way. The extra time in Maddie’s story allowed her the necessary time to grieve and we see her fully heal by the end of the novel.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading The House of the Wind. It actually reminded me a little bit of The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton (though not quite as good) with the historically connected stories. Mia and Maddie captivated me and I didn’t want to put the book down until I found out how the two women were connected. This is an enchanting read and I think fans of historical fiction in particular will really enjoy it as well.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult

5 Star

Every life has a soundtrack. All you have to do is listen.

Music has set the tone for most of Zoe Baxter’s life. There’s the melody that reminds her of the summer she spent rubbing baby oil on her stomach in pursuit of the perfect tan. A dance beat that makes her think of using a fake ID to slip into a nightclub. A dirge that marked the years she spent trying to get pregnant.

For better or for worse, music is the language of memory. It is also the language of love.

In the aftermath of a series of personal tragedies, Zoe throws herself into her career as a music therapist. When an unexpected friendship slowly blossoms into love, she makes plans for a new life, but to her shock and inevitable rage, some people—even those she loves and trusts most—don’t want that to happen. 

Lydia - 5 Star

Jodi Picoult is a master. I marveled often at her abilities and frequently stopped to study her writing - when I wasn’t busy whipping through the pages to see how this novel would end. A few short words and her characters leap off the page.  I laughed, I cried, I thought and talked about the novel and its issues. And I couldn’t stop thinking about it when I put it down.  I suspect this one won’t be forgotten easily. 

Sing You Home was only the second Jodi Picoult novel I have read, and it was completely different the first one, Salem Falls which takes place in a small town and was full of multiple characters.  Here we focus on a few characters who grew in my heart as they navigated through the issues they faced. 

I had no idea what Sing You Home was about when I picked it up, but I expected something a little heavier and true to Picoult’s style, it was full of controversy and surprising choices. Picoult does a fantastic job of painting characters so real and grounded in time and place. After a heart-splitting beginning, this novel journeys deep into the land of reproduction technology and the legalities surrounding frozen embryos. The pain of Zoe’s infertility is achingly obvious as is the love she eventually shares with Vanessa and the discomfort and confusion Max struggles with is palpable. 

The ending surprised me.  I struggled throughout this novel to predict the outcome but would never have been able to figure it out.  It chocked me up and it wasn’t expected which I enjoyed. Fan of Picoult will not be disappointed. 

Thank you to Simon&Schuster Canada for our review copy! All opinions are our own.

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

You're (Not) The One by Alexandra Potter

5 Star

Most women dream of finding the love of their life. Lucy just wants to lose him... 

Venice, one of the world's most romantic cities, lives by the legend of the bridge of sighs: When a woman kisses the man of her dreams under the bridge at sunset, she will be together with him forever. So eighteen-year-old Lucy seals her fate in the blush of first love with Nate.
Yet ten years later, the pair has completely lost contact-until the day Lucy arrives at Nate's luxury Manhattan apartment with paintings he has purchased from the gallery where she is newly employed. The legend has reunited the couple, and Lucy is overjoyed-until the state of their union is misery. 

Sabrina Kate - 5 Star

You're Not The One was one of the books I couldn't put down. Written about Lucy Hemingway,  a loveable character who appealed to my inner soul, I found myself wanting to find out what was going to happen next around every plot twist and page turn.

Lucy Hemingway and Nate Kennedy met as young adults in one of the most romantic settings in the world - Venice, Italy. Legend has it that if you kiss someone under the Bridge of Sighs, you are then bound to them for life. Which about ten years later and many years apart seems to suddenly be the case.

Happy about this at first, since they are now both in New York City and bumped into each other unexpectedly, Lucy and Nate start to rekindle their flame. But things start to go sour soon enough unfortunately and then Lucy cannot get away from Nate. And he can't get away from her. Stronger forces at work, destiny or just plain back luck have them constantly in contact with each other, even in a place as big as Manhattan. Lucy also has worries about her sister's problems, and the possibility of the gallery she works at closing. Trying to help out everyone while also dealing with her own situation often has her frazzled so she's lucky she has a great roommate and friend, Robyn, even though Robyn is a bit of a nut.

Soon enough though, another interesting prospect (read man) appears on the horizon and Lucy must make some difficult decisions after she realizes that she is truly interested in getting to know the "gallery crasher." Trying to rid herself forever of the "curse" of the legend and also trying to win new interest Adam's heart, this book was an interesting take on what is meant to be versus what has been.

Thank you to Plume for our review copy!

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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Bungalow by Sarah Jio

5 Star
In the summer of 1942, twenty-one-year-old Anne Calloway, newly engaged, sets off to serve in the Army Nurse Corps on the Pacific island of Bora-Bora. More exhilarated by the adventure of a lifetime than she ever was by her predictable fiancé, she is drawn to a mysterious soldier named Westry, and their friendship soon blossoms into hues as deep as the hibiscus flowers native to the island. Under the thatched roof of an abandoned beach bungalow, the two share a private world-until they witness a gruesome crime, Westry is suddenly redeployed, and the idyll vanishes into the winds of war.

A timeless story of enduring passion, The Bungalow chronicles Anne's determination to discover the truth about the twin losses-of life, and of love-that have haunted her for seventy years. 

Amazon  Kindle     Kobo Nook

Lydia - 5 Star

I fell in love with this book.  A love story first and foremost, The Bungalow is also a tale of friendship, forgiveness and growth amidst a gorgeous beach backdrop in Bora Bora that is surrounded by a raging war. This novel captivated me from the first page and I polished it off in a few sittings – which unfortunately is rare for me these days. The romantic angle really should have seemed over the top, but it actually worked, which surprised me at times and is a testament to Jio’s writing.
The Bungalow had me wanting to hop on a plane, find a romantic bungalow on a beach and set up shop there.  Oh, the writing and reading I could do. And the romance…  I think anyone with an adventurous side can relate to Anne’s hopping on a plane. Her sense of duty pushed her to go against the wishes of her family and finance, mere weeks before her impending wedding and she found a little something more on the island than she anticipated.  
I never questioned the love between Anne and Westry and could feel how torn she was between the promises she made to the finance she left behind and her love for Westry during such an uncertain and devastating time. And how dreamy a name is Westry Green by the way?  I recently read a post by Sarah Jio who revealed the story behind it. Westry Green is actually the name of someone she knew and she told him that one day she would be using his name in a novel. I think she has definitely done the name justice.  Ahhh, Westry….. Westry Green…
Sorry, I got to daydreaming…
Anne was such a naïve and innocent character which contrasted sharply to her best friend, Kitty, and ultimately the war setting. As her life shifts from the cozy privileged life in Seattle to the sights and worry of war, her perspective changes with the ultimate knowledge that their lives could be shattered at any moment.  The bungalow offers a glimpse of peace and when love with Westry ignites a passion she’s unfamiliar with dependable and sturdy Gerald, there’s never any question which way her heart will lead.   
 At times I couldn’t help but wonder about the convenient timing of certain events – sorry, I can’t divulge for spoilers - but then I would remember some of my own coincidental meetings and random events in life and be convinced. Sometimes life just has a way of putting people, places and events exactly where they’re needed, whether you even know it or not. Serendipity?  Fate?  God? Whatever you believe, this book might just convince you a little more. Or even if you don’t, this book might just convince you. Regardless of your view, they somehow seemed to work in this novel and I’m still surprised that they didn’t bother as much as they probably should have.  
Even the predictable ending didn’t phase me. I shed tears. Many of them. And I was grateful I pushed through to finish the novel in the evening and not the following morning on my way to work on the subway. The bawling would have been mortifying. I’m fairly certain this novel would make a gorgeous movie. A love story for the ladies, with some war action for the boys amidst a stunning Pacific beach backdrop and a great storyline.  Yep, I’m pretty sure it would be a winner.  A Nicholas Sparks kind of tear jerker comes to mind….

Thank you to Penguin for our review copy and providing this giveaway!

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

An Autumn Crush by Milly Johnson

3 Star

After a bruising divorce, headstrong Juliet Miller invests in a flat and advertises for a flatmate, little believing that in her mid-thirties she'll find anyone suitable. But along comes self-employed copywriter Floz, raw from her own relationship split, and the two woman hit it off. When Juliet's twin brother Guy meets Floz, he is overcome with a massive crush. But being a shy, gentle giant, he communicates so clumsily with her as to give her the opposite impression.

Guy's best friend Steve has always had a secret, unrequited crush on Juliet. After a night of too much wine, Steve and Juliet end up in bed, after moaning about the lack of sex in their lives. Convinced that Juliet doesn't feel the same way, Steve agrees to a 'just-sex' relationship, until they can both hook their dream partners. Just when Guy has finally plucked up the courage to tell Floz how he feels, he finds she has rekindled an old romance. Floz has never had much love in her life and is obviously thirsty for affection. She loves the whole Miller family, from Juliet and Guy's warm, loving parents, to their ancient one-eyed black cat. But can Guy turn Floz's affection for his family into something more - into love for him?

Then Juliet makes a series of discoveries which will turn the lives of all four friends upside-down and turns that Autumn into a season where love can be harvested.

Kathryn - 3 Star

Milly Johnson is a favourite author of mine (and Lydia’s too) and we were thrilled that she had this new novel out so quickly after her last.  She’s one of those authors that submerses you in her characters and forces you to gobble up the whole story as quickly as you can read it. 

While I have to admit that the storyline was a bit predictable (there was no doubt from chapter one who would end up with who) it’s the warmth of the people in them that makes her novels so enchanting.  In this particular story I found roommate Floz to hold the most interest and indeed her path to love and happiness is the most intriguing by far.  I would have liked to have known a little more about her troubles a bit earlier on in some cases but as I don’t want to give away any details I’ll leave it at that…

Juliet is loveable and she’s an open book so you’re never confused about her intent.  However, once I was approaching the end I realised that I would have liked to have known more about her ex-husband.  The contrast between her first marriage and the man she ends up with would have given a bit more depth to Juliet and while we find out a lot about her from her family it just seemed to me that we weren’t given enough about her ex.

Where Juliet is open her twin brother Guy (completely besotted with Floz) is closed, moody and a bit shy and I can see how this was important to the plot but he also drove me a bit batty with his awkwardness which I found made the story drag a little.

An Autumn Crush is fun and though I enjoyed the novel I still think Johnson’s A Spring Affair is my favourite!

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

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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Year in Review - 2011

Season's Greetings everyone!

We can hardly believe another year has passed! It was a year that saw our reading and reviewing slow with other focuses in our lives (Kathryn's new baby and Lydia's writing and return to work and school). It has also seen us add two new lovely ladies to our review roster and we're looking forward to the New Year and all their reviews!  

As we did last year, here are our top reads of the year for both Kathryn and Lydia. 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 

The Violets of March by Sarah Jio
Lydia and Kathryn
Don’t judge a book by it’s cover?  Well, The Violets of March has one of the most magnificent covers I have ever laid eyes on. It’s simple, the dash of purple amidst the muted tones is stunning and the weathered and layered feel is fitting for the novel.  I had high hopes when I cracked the cover based on the gorgeousness of it and I wasn’t disappointed.

Firstly, still on the cover, I will try not to complain about my copy being defaced in an accident involving a cottage and vodka.  In my defence…the book was so lovely that it remained on the coffee table to sneak peaks at during spare moments! The Violets of March is a delightful, effortless read with an astounding setting that made me want to pick up and move somewhere with a beach immediately.  The intrigue surrounding the 1940’s journal was as easy to be drawn into as Emily’s present day story and I had no difficulty moving back and forth between the two...  

Lydia and Kathryn

I finally got around to reading the The Help. I thought I would be disappointed after all the hype which is usually what happens when I don’t jump on a ‘great’ book I keep hearing about, but that was far from the case with this one.
I dragged this novel along to a temp job where I was reception relief and my only responsibility was transferring incoming calls. ‘The computer is solely for your enjoyement’ I quote my trainer as she waved to the solitaire game she was playing when I arrived.  So, after I got bored of solitaire and Facebook, I presumed reading would be OK and dug The Help out of my bag, worrying about how I would become immersed in a book amidst multiple interruptions. I worried needlessly.  The fact that I had to tear my eyes away from the pages numerous times and it still didn’t prevent me from becoming immediately absorbed in this story is evidence of what an easy read The Help is as well as how captivating and entertaining it is right from the first page. I enjoyed it so much I grew aggravated when the phone rang and my dialing skills improved with each call so I could get back to reading. I read over 150 pages that afternoon....

Skipping a Beat by Sarah Pekkanen
I loved everything about this novel from the unique story line, to the dynamics between Julia and Michael and the supporting cast. Skipping a Beat explores love, marriage, family, ambition and success, and its unique and intimate voice delivers an intensely compelling and satisfying read.

Reading Skipping a Beat felt like curling up in front of a fireplace with a glass of wine and new friend while she unveiled her life story.  It was that intimate.  It was that real.  It carried that much depth of emotion. The way the story unfolds felt exactly like someone would tell it in confidence to a new friend who wasn’t aware of her situation or history. I found this fascinating and am certain I've never read another novel that had quite the same feel or drew me in as casually and intimately as Skipping a Beat... READ MORE....

I picked this book up in the sale section at the bookstore and honestly had no idea what it was about but kind of liked the title and the cover. I actually do (frequently in fact) get sucked in by a cover- it’s true.

I didn’t know that the novel was English and for me this just added to the charm of the characters. The realities of living in a village with the ins and outs of everyone knowing everyone else’s business, from marital affairs to how many loaves of bread your family gets through in a week, were perfectly delivered... READ MORE...
Arranged by Catherine McKenzie

I loved Catherine McKenzie's debut novel, Spin - which made it to my top 5 reads of 2010, and couldn't wait to get my hands on a copy of Arranged and I was not disappointed. McKenzie's latest novel explores the premise of a western woman seeking an arranged marriage, one based on friendship rather than love, and I thought the comparisons and insights throughout the novel were interesting and they definitely had me stopping to think at times. Arranged was fast paced, had an intriguing premise and I was drawn immediately into Anne’s world. Catherine McKenzie definitely has another winner on her hands!

I loved the Anne of Green Gables thread throughout. Having been a huge fan of the books and movies since I was a child, I giggled frequently and loved how Anne kept tying her romantic nature back to the story as well as the fun she poked at herself for being named after such an infamous character... READ MORE...

My first impression of Neill’s novel was that it was not what I was expecting- I think I was expecting something like The Nanny Diaries (McLaughlin & Kraus) but What the Nanny Saw turned out to be quite different in both the voice and the focus of the story.

The story revolves around a young family- the parents are at the height of their careers in London and making absurd amounts of money- they hire Ali, impoverished student, as their nanny because she’s studying English literature, she’s  intelligent and organised enough to cope with their chaotic schedules.  They are typically over-parenting via the nanny (demanding details of each child’s progress daily in writing while rarely actually eating dinner with their children themselves) and yet I found myself really liking both parents and getting a sense that there was a relationship building between them and their kids, despite the physical distance.   Towards the end though, as more and more things start to be exposed, you can see how the image projected at the start is perhaps just that, a picture of what they wanted life to be like...  READ MORE...

Christmas at Tiffany's by Karen Swan

4 Star
Three cities, three seasons, one chance to find the life that fits:

Cassie settled down too young, marrying her first serious boyfriend. Now, ten years later, she is betrayed and broken. With her marriage in tatters and no career or home of her own, she needs to work out where she belongs in the world and who she really is.
So begins a year-long trial as Cassie leaves her sheltered life in rural Scotland to stay with each of her best friends in the most glamorous cities in the world: New York, Paris and London. Exchanging grouse moor and mousy hair for low-carb diets and high-end highlights, Cassie tries on each city for size as she attempts to track down the life she was supposed to have been leading, and with it, the man who was supposed to love her all along.

Amazon    Kindle     Kobo Nook
Lydia - 4 Star

Christmas at Tiffany’s is a novel about friendship and love throughout a journey of discovery and reinvention.  Having gone through a similar starting over process myself as the main character, Cassie - unfortunately without the world travel - I could relate to much of what she was going through. There were times though that I wondered what she was doing or cringed at her decisions and those her friends forced on her, but in the end Cassie found her way and I enjoyed watching her do so.

I swooned when this gorgeous book arrived in my mailbox, expecting a story about Christmas in New York  City, which I’m a complete sucker for even though I have never been myself.  I had looked forward to living vicariously for a while, but I felt a little let down by this cover and title as this novel rushes through Christmas during its journey through three seasons. The title does come into play though, so I wasn’t altogether disappointed, but I had hoped for more of this magical season in the bustling city.

Cassie doesn’t spend too much time depressed and moping about which I appreciated and I did giggle out loud at times through this novel, but at times I wondered how these very different women were friends. When Cassie was visiting each of them on their own turf (New York, Paris and London), I frequently thought they took it a little too far in their influence and transformation of her. It was like they didn’t even know her. I wanted them to leave her alone and let her figure it out on her own and I think it especially irked me that it was mostly outward focused, not inward.  In the end, they did come around and recognized Cassie was her own woman and stopped trying to transform her into something she wasn’t.

The love story in Christmas at Tiffany’s was interesting, definitely different, but somewhat aggravating and predictable. It took eons of bumbling miscommunication for them to figure out that it became a bit irritating, even though some of the scenes were enjoyable along the way. There were some surprises outside the love story which dampened the overall predictability of the book.

In a side note, I hated the format of this novel.  It was one of those huge paperbacks that are ridiculously awkward to hold and actually gave my hands cramps.  It was worse than a hard cover.  I would have preferred smaller print or an actual hardcover for this one and the only reason I mention it is that it really did take away from my enjoyment at times because I had to put it down.

In the end, I did have a smile on my face as everything wrapped up in a neat little blue bow and as Kaley said in her first review for us, if you like your chick lit endings all wrapped up in a happy little bow, you’ll love this one.

Thank you to HarperCollins Canada for our review copy!

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The Puppy That Came for Christmas by Megan Rix

3 Star

Megan and her husband, Ian, found a surprising answer when they began training golden retriever pups to become service dogs for people with disabilities. But opening their homes and hearts up to Emma, and then Freddy-only to have each move on after six months-eventually took its own toll. Megan and Ian didn't know if they could continue. Then, one Christmas, little Traffy came along ... and stayed. 

Amazon  Kindle Kobo

Sabrina-Kate - 3 Star

The Puppy That Came for Christmas is a light hearted tale of one couple’s infertility issues and the dog that filled that empty place in their hearts. It was a story of a couple, Megan and Ian, who had met later in life and were trying to have a child despite many obstacles.

The story is woven around their struggle but also speaks of them fostering dogs that would later become “helper” dogs. Trying many ways to conceive a child, this couple was starting to feel the strain on their relationship, when month after month nothing worked. Adding to the strain was the fact that Megan's sister in law suddenly got pregnant. Looking for ways to find some kind of fulfillment while trying to create their family was how Megan and Ian decided to adopt a puppy, though temporarily by helping raise a helper dog.

The story structure was a bit weak in my opinion as the author tended to go off on tangents (a lot) while recounting an event. Eventually she’d return to the original story and it was ok once you got used to her style but it took away from the continuity. The title is also a bit misleading as there is much more to the story than just that one puppy, and it was not really a Christmas story, however she ends up being the main focus.

Ultimately the story was one that many of us can probably identify with – the search for love. Whether it be finding a mate, having a child or adopting a puppy. I'd recommend this story for people who are big animal fans as it is sure to provide them with a heartwarming family tale.

Thank you to Plume for our review copy!

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Everyone Worth Knowing by Lauren Weisberger

4 Star

What happens when a girl on the fringe enters the realm of New York's chic, party-hopping elite?

Soon after Bette Robinson quits her horrendous Manhattan banking job like the impulsive girl she's never been, the novelty of walking her four-pound dog around the unglamorous Murray Hill neighborhood wears as thin as the "What are you going to do with your life?" phone calls from her parents. Then Bette meets Kelly, head of Manhattan's hottest PR firm, and suddenly she has a brand-new job where the primary requirement is to see and be seen inside the VIP rooms of the city's most exclusive nightclubs. But when Bette begins appearing in a vicious new gossip column, she realizes that the line between her personal life and her professional life is...invisible. 

Kaley - 4 Star

Everyone Worth Knowing was my first Lauren Weisberger read and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Like most females, I’ve seen (and enjoyed) the movie version of The Devil Wears Prada but I never got around to reading the book.  I wasn’t sure what I was going to think of this novel but it turns out I really liked it!

The thing I was hesitant about was thinking that the book would be full of people who were only concerned about their wardrobe and being seen at the hottest places. There were lots of these types of characters but they didn’t irritate me nearly as much as I thought they would. I think that’s because they worked so well with the story. I will say that if you don’t like shallow people and the lifestyle that goes along with the rich and famous this book probably isn’t for you. I ended up enjoying it because Bette was clearly the star and while she got herself some better clothes and went out to the best bars she never lost who she truly was and that helped keep the novel grounded. 

There was a lot of name dropping in this novel and since the book was written awhile ago (it was published in 2006) it was already starting to feel a bit dated. For example, Tara Reid shows up at an exclusive party. Does anyone know or care what Tara Reid is up to these days? No? I didn’t think so. I kept thinking how much different the story would have been if it had been written now with the explosion of social media. Twitter and Facebook would have been amazing tools for Bette in her party planning job. Just goes to show how much things can change in just a few short years.

I wasn’t going to give this book 4 stars but the ending left me with such a warm and happy feeling that I had to bump up my rating. The way Weisberger wrapped up Everyone Worth Knowing couldn’t have been better if you had put a big red bow around it. Overall, I really liked this novel and think many other chick lit lovers will as well. There’s a bit of scandal, a bit of romance, and quite a few laughs. What’s not to love?

Connect with Lauren Weisberger here:

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

5 Star

Be prepared to meet three unforgettable women: 

Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen's best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody's business, but she can't mind her tongue, so she's lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.

Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.

Lydia - 5 Star

I finally got around to reading the The Help. I thought I would be disappointed after all the hype which is usually what happens when I don’t jump on a ‘great’ book I keep hearing about, but that was far from the case with this one.

I dragged this novel along to a temp job where I was reception relief and my only responsibility was transferring incoming calls. ‘The computer is solely for your enjoyement’ I quote my trainer as she waved to the solitaire game she was playing when I arrived.  So, after I got bored of solitaire and Facebook, I presumed reading would be OK and dug The Help out of my bag, worrying about how I would become immersed in a book amidst multiple interruptions. I worried needlessly.  The fact that I had to tear my eyes away from the pages numerous times and it still didn’t prevent me from becoming immediately absorbed in this story is evidence of what an easy read The Help is as well as how captivating and entertaining it is right from the first page. I enjoyed it so much I grew aggravated when the phone rang and my dialing skills improved with each call so I could get back to reading. I read over 150 pages that afternoon.   

The Help is all plot and character. There is little description besides character’s observations which is my perfect read. The potential of danger lurking made this a tense read at times and yet I laughed frequently, which surprised me the most about this immensely enjoyable tale. 

The characters, oh, the characters.  Such incredibly vivid, amazing, colourful women graced these pages.  They felt so real that I thought they would jump off the page at me.  Written from three women’s perspectives, I wasn’t at all discouraged as the story flipped around to each narrator. We see the world from Minnie’s feisty point of view and Skeeter’s humanitarian and questioning eyes as well as my favourite, Aibileen, whose love for little Mae Mobbley knows no bounds even though she knows she’s going to have to leave her eventually. My heart ached with their every scene. 

This story was so thought provoking and contained such a wonderful commentary on women and friendship and trust and love. Although Stockett could have taken this novel in terrifying directions, she didn’t. Instead, while maintaining a strong undercurrent of danger, she kept the story uplifting and upbeat. She focused on the strength of these women, their tenacity, hope and courage and I adored the focus on the good lurking behind closed doors. My favourite line was also Stockett’s favourite which addresses female relationships. No spoilers here as it’s towards the end of the novel.  You’ll just have to find it yourself…or if you need a little help it’s addressed in the afterward.

So, if you’ve been holding off on reading The Help because you don’t think it will live up to the hype, don’t.  This is the kind of novel that hits with a solid punch and won’t be forgotten easily. I will definitely remember this novel forever.

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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Falling Together by Marisa de los Santos

3.5 Star
What if saying hello to an old friend meant saying good-bye to life as you know it?

It’s been six years since Pen Calloway watched her best friends walk out of her life. And through the birth of her daughter, the death of her father, and the vicissitudes of single motherhood, she has never stopped missing them.

Pen, Cat, and Will met on their first day of college and formed what seemed like a magical and lifelong bond, only to see their friendship break apart amid the realities of adulthood. When, after years of silence, Cat—the bewitching, charismatic center of their group—e-mails Pen and Will with an urgent request to meet at their college reunion, they can’t refuse. But instead of a happy reconciliation, what awaits is a collision of past and present that sends Pen and Will, with Pen’s five-year-old daughter and Cat’s hostile husband in tow, on a journey across the world.

As Pen and Will struggle to uncover the truth about Cat, they find more than they bargained for: startling truths about who they were before and who they are now. They must confront the reasons their friendship fell apart and discover how—and if—it can ever fall back together. 

Kathryn - 3.5 Star

As I was reading this novel I was aware that I was going to be having some mixed thoughts on the review.  I unfortunately had to push myself to get through the first few pages to a point where I could grab on to the plot.  My hesitation came with my aversion to what I think of as “forced” description.  Any description that is trying to direct the reader into seeing things in a beatific light makes me grumpy and I tend to start skipping paragraphs which is dangerous because you then might miss something important to the plot and that can make a very frustrating read.   
I therefore found it difficult at first to grasp the point of the plot of Falling Together but once I had an idea of the people and situation I really liked the premise of the story and also even enjoyed the different characters and their interactions.  Once in a while I’d find myself confused again by the descriptions and have to re-read things to make sure I hadn’t missed something but all in all once I got used to the writing I enjoyed the novel’s personality.
My personal favourite character was Will as I felt he was given the most concrete history and most realistic personality- he wasn’t hiding anything  to the reader whereas I found Pen’s intent a bit confusing.  I appreciated the concept of lost friendships and wanting to re-ignite them later in life and I’m sure many people will also be able to relate.  There are many people from my past I’d like to have back in my current life- sometimes though they won’t always still be a good fit and I think the author did a wonderful job of putting these thoughts on paper.
In the end I actually quite enjoyed Falling Together and definitely appreciated de los Santos’ intent - I could have  done with a little less description but that’s, quite possibly, just me.
Thank you to HarperCollins Canada for our review copy! 

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