Wednesday, February 23, 2011

It Can Happen To You by Lynn Crymble

4 Star

Penny Stevens is not living a life she loves, but it's far from terrible, so she figures why rock the boat. Then one day a good deed flings her into the spotlight and she becomes the focus of a life makeover. She reluctantly agrees and finds her life turned upside down as her home, garden and her body undergo dramatic transformations. With the help of an old friend, two gorgeous gardeners and a dog named Haggis, Penny's develops the courage and confidence to make some changes. But will they all last and will the makeover be a success?

Lydia - 4 Star

This was a delightful and heartwarming novel that had me laughing at loud.  If you've ever been stuck in a rut you'll love this novel and if you're currently stuck and need some inspiration to help you move forward, this novel might just give you the kick in the butt you need. I loved the voice and felt it suited Penny's character and I couldn't wait to see what would happen next.

The first line in the 3rd chapter is now my favourite sentence from a chick lit book ever.  If I had been eating or drinking anything it would have sailed clear across the room. I laughed that hard.  It was so unexpected after bumbling along with Penny over the first few chapters that it both shocked me and made me laugh out loud.  There were other moments too, like how she gets her revenge on her husband and her interlude with the gardener that made me giggle.  

This was not the most unique storyline, but there were threads that kept it so and I loved watching her relationships develop and seeing her transformation.  I loved all the characters. I wanted to hug Penny frequently as well as kick her to get her moving forward. I wanted to kick her husband in the groin for different reasons and I loved the gardeners and smiled often at their interventions.

I did find the end became a tad slow and I wasn't completely sure about the epilogue and how the story ended. It all seemed somewhat abrupt and unresolved to me.  But other than that, It Can Happen to You was a joy to read and I would definitely pick up another Lynn Crymble novel.

**Thank you to the Toronto Public Library for our copy. All opinions are our own.

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Cowboys Never Cry by Tina Welling

3 Star

Cassie Danner is a young widow still struggling with her loss when she accepts a job as a cook at a dude ranch in Wyoming and is suddenly surrounded by cowboys. This includes the infamous celebrity, Robbin McKeag, who is settled at the ranch for the year. Robbin is quick to criticize her and Cassie finds herself torn between pushing his buttons and being drawn to him as he attempts to sort out his life. They can't seem to leave each other alone and the more she pulls away from their mutual attraction, the further he pushes. Will romance blossom and will they be able to forget their past hurts and move on?

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Lydia - 4 Star

Cowboys Never Cry is a delightful novel about a cowboy romance set amidst a glorious backdrop. It's not all picture perfect though and tackles tough subjects including loss, grief, and moving on. I love reading novels where I learn something and the ranch life portrayed in Cowboys Never Cry was entirely new to me, both in real life and as a unique setting compared to the usual city girl chick lit we usually read, so I thoroughly enjoyed this aspect of the novel.

I loved Cassie's character and enjoyed watching her grow throughout her struggle.  There was just enough intrigue surrounding her situation and her husband that I wanted to know what the secrets were and I thoroughly enjoyed the banter, flirtation and relationship that developed between Cassie and Robbin. I thought it was unique in that she didn't really fight her feelings for Robbin.  She threw it out there right away and although it seemed a little backwards, I thought it played out well and intrigued me.  I liked every character in this novel including Robbin even though I thought was a little overbearing at times.

The environmental commentary throughout the novel was interesting and I liked seeing Cassie try and resolve them.  Her character felt entirely real to me, and although I couldn't relate to her loss or adventure-some attitude (you would never catch me on lone overnight hikes in the mountains!), I could always understand her motives and she had so many sides that certain aspects I could relate to. 

There were many interesting and poignant observations in this novel which I appreciated and many made me stop and think several times.  One of my favourite metaphors:  "If this didn't work out, she would be left with fresh-cut loneliness, as if her heart were an apple with another sliver removed, leaving the fruit with the job of browning and toughening its edges once again to seal off the escape of juices."

Since reading this novel, I've been left desperate to visit mountains. Not a fan of being bogged down with setting details, I thought this novel had a great balance and it left me dreaming of mountains along with spring and summer weather which was a lovely interlude during these tough winter months. 

Cowboys Never Cry was a enjoyable read and I would definitely read another Tina Welling novel!

Kathryn - 2 Star

This one was tricky for me because Lydia had already read it and enjoyed it a lot so I was surprised that it took me quite a long time to become involved in the characters and the plot.  It’s certainly written a bit differently stylistically than the novels I’ve been reading recently so I think that this was probably the initial stumbling block- wrapping my brain around a new style.
As I’ve mentioned it did take me a little time to warm to the personalities- initially I found them a bit dry and their relationships were even a little bit emotionless.  I think I wanted to feel a sense of their history before they all ended up working out the entire novel together so it may just have been a lack of background.  Throughout though, I continued to find it strange that Cassie doesn’t seem to have much tie to her family or her friends- they are mentioned and appear during the novel but there isn’t a best friend or someone she seems to confide in.  Given that Cassie is obviously going through quite a tough time I would have liked her to have someone to lean on.
In contrast much as I found the people hard to root for the surrounding country and the ranch were very real to me and Welling made me feel as if I had a great grasp of what everything looked like and the feel of the nature and the area.  And much as I say I didn’t really find much warmth in the main characters I really loved the father and he made the link between the people and the place for me.
Towards the last third of the story I started to want to root for the people and could see how their lives would mesh so it was a slow starter for me but I came to like them in the end.

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Friday, February 4, 2011

Sarah's Key by Tatiana De Rosnay

3 Star

In July 1942, Sarah’s family is arrested in Paris, but not before the ten year old girl manages to sequester her brother away in a secret cupboard in the wall believing she will return in a matter of hours to retrieve him.

In July 2002, Julia Jarmond, is asked to write an article covering Vel D’Hiv’s 60th anniversary.  Through her investigation she uncovers Sarah’s story and discovers a personal connection that compels her forward to learn all she can about the little girl and her brother. Her investigation also leads her to question her own circumstances. 
Lydia - 3 Star

Sarah’s Key has received rave reviews since its publication, and while I liked the story, I didn’t fall in love with it.  The mystery surrounding Sarah intrigued me and reading the story from a child’s eyes was haunting and I’m sure it will stay with me for a long time. Unfortunately, Sarah’s tale wasn’t all that this novel encompassed and I just didn’t find Julia’s story as compelling.

I was much more engrossed in the historical aspect of the novel than the present day tale and wanted to keep reading about Sarah so when her narrative disappeared I was disappointed. I was also more than a little surprised to discover that there was still a chunk of the novel left.

Which leads me to Julie’s story. I didn’t completely dislike her, but I just didn’t love her character. I couldn’t understand her relationship and grew wary about the romantic angle of the story.  Usually I love the romance aspect, but wasn’t sure it was the best fit here.  The only part of her story I enjoyed was her relationship with her father in law.

There was one part near the end that agitated me and I won’t say what it is because it leads to all sorts of spoilers, but there’s a point where Julia is trying to avoid saying something and it became irritating, especially because it was already predictable as I honestly found much of the novel to be.

All in all, I didn’t hate this novel, I just wish I had more to latch onto and had felt more for the characters involved.

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