Saturday, March 26, 2011

Homecoming by Cathy Kelly

4 Star

What are the ingredients for a life well lived?

Eleanor Levine left Ireland years ago with just a suitcase and her mother′s recipe book. And now, a lifetime later, she returns from New York for Dublin′s beautiful Golden Square full of memories and hard-won wisdom. As she watches life unfold from her window, she is drawn into the lives of the women who live in the square ...

Beautiful actress Megan Bouchier had fame and success in her grasp - then she made the wrong kind of headlines. Now she needs a place to hide. Big-hearted teacher Connie O′Callaghan is approaching forty and has given up on love. Why does no man match the heroes in her romantic novels?Rae is a loyal friend and wife, dispensing tea and sympathy from Titania′s Tea Room -- until a secret threatens everything she holds dear ...

Lydia - 4 Star

I thoroughly enjoyed Homecoming!  I can’t recall how long it’s been since I’ve read some Brit Lit, or Irish Lit and this was a great, fun read.  There is something distinctly different about this genre and the novels always make me want to move to a small town across the pond and cozy up with my neighbours.  There is something so friendly and honest with these books and even the ‘villains’ never seem so terrible.

Homecoming intertwines four women, but at no point was I ever confused. It flows seamlessly and I was eager to see how each woman would resolve their particular conflicts. I loved the cross section of women portrayed. There is truly something in this novel for everyone.  I enjoyed Connie’s character immensely and loved her sarcastic humour about herself and her situation and cheered for her to open her eyes.  I also loved Rae’s story with her secret and how it unfolded.  I found the relationship that developed between Eleanor and Megan’s touching.

I could picture the square they all lived on vividly and wanted to move into a flat there too, although can’t recall much time in the novel spent on too much detail.  More attention is paid to each character and their particular plights, which I appreciated, rather than overly descriptive prose about the setting.

Homecoming made me realize how much I loved these stories and that I’ll definitely have to make a point to pick them up more often!  I had a smile on my face for most of this novel and that’s such a lovely way to read a book!

Kathryn - 4 Star

I’ve always enjoyed Kelly’s novels and read right through Homecoming with the same enthusiasm.  Lately her novels involve many characters whose stories intermingle and I found myself relating to each of the main storytellers despite their very different ages and stages of life.  Although each main character has equal time dedicated to them I was most fascinated by the lives of two of them- Eleanor and Rae.
Eleanor is in her eighties but despite our age difference I was drawn back to her story each time because she’s dealing with the overwhelming grief of losing her husband and can’t seem to focus on who or what she should do to move on with her own life- she has a daughter and grand-daughter she obviously cares for deeply but even they aren’t able to lift her depression.  I think that many people can relate to her situation because of the raw emotion she feels and I liked the way Kelly told us about her grief without making Eleanor into a bore- she had a huge amount of depth to her.
Rae found her way into my heart initially because she was very energetic and constantly on the move.  She seemed like the kind of friend and neighbour everyone should have around.  She had a dedicated husband, a grown up son and volunteered in her neighbourhood but Cathy Kelly also gave her a baby, given up for adoption when she was sixteen, and with the introduction of that storyline I got completely engrossed in Rae and how she came to be the person she is today. 
Cathy Kelly writes a completely defined set of characters and places so that you are visually aware of the story as it unfolds and I appreciate that wholeheartedly. Though I was occasionally frustrated by some of the minor moments between personalities I know that the honesty of the feelings is what made it a well-rounded story- and realistic!
A read I definitely enjoyed!
 Thank you to HarperCollins Canada for our review copy. All opinions are our own.

Connect with Cathy Kelly:

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Deborah Coonts Stuck on a Desert Island

If Deborah Coonts, author of Wanna Get Lucky and Lucky Stiff was stuck on a desert island, how would she fare...

1. If you could only have one book with you, what would it be?

Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand, because I never tire of reading it.

2. What one luxury item would you want to be stranded with?

A fully-charged satellite phone. :)

3. What is the one practical item you would want to have with you to use?

My computer—with a solar battery, if there is such a thing.  If not, then a bunch of pens and reams of paper.  Solitude is a great place to work.  And, with my imaginary friends, I’m never truly alone and certainly never lonely.

4. Would you enjoy the solitude, even briefly, or would it drive you crazy?

I would adapt, I’d hope.  But, truly there are only two islands I could stand to be marooned on for any length of time, Manhattan and Ile St.-Louis.

5. If you could be stranded with one other person, who would you want it to be?

The love of my life, Michael, because he makes me laugh, he’s pretty handy, and alone time with him is in short supply.

6. What modern technology would you miss the most?

My iPad—movies, music, the internet…endless entertainment.

7. What food or beverage would you miss the most?

Peanut M & Ms, any color, and Cosmopolitans (pink), but not together.

8. How many days do you think you would cope without rescue?

As many as I had to—but cope well?  Perhaps a few hours.  Without my iphone, contacts and constant updates, I think I would cease to be. 

9. What is the first thing you would do when rescued?

Call my son.

10. What would be your first Tweet or Facebook update upon your return?

No more sushi! 

We have a copy of Wanna Get Lucky to giveaway! Click here for details!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Wanna Get Lucky by Deborah Coonts

4 Star

A young woman plunges from a Las Vegas sightseeing helicopter, landing in the Pirate’s lagoon in front of the Treasure Island Hotel in the middle of the 8:30 Pirate Show.  Almost everyone writes her off as another Vegas victim.

But Lucky O’Toole smells a rat.  She’s head of Customer Relations at The Babylon, the newest, most opulent mega-casino and resort on the Strip, so she’s got a lot on her plate: the Adult Film industry’s annual awards banquet, a spouse-swapping convention, sex toy purveyors preying on the pocket-protector crowd attending ElectroniCon….  Still, Lucky can’t resist turning over a few stones. 

When a former flame is one of the snakes she uncovers, Lucky’s certain she’s no longer dealing with an anonymous Sin City suicide.  To top it all off, Lucky’s best friend Teddie—Las Vegas’ finest female impersonator—presses to take their relationship to the next level.  Leave it to Lucky to attract a man who looks better in a dress than she does.

Lucky must manage the Babylon’s onslaught of outrageous festivities, solve a murder, and struggle to keep her life and libido from spinning out of control… not to mention keep her balance in six inch heels.

Lydia - 4 Star

Wanna Get Lucky is a fun, fast paced read. A murder mystery and love story twist through these pages amidst all the chaos and debauchery Las Vegas has to offer.  I whipped through this chick lit mystery and giggled frequently along the way.

I loved Lucky O'Toole's character.  She is full of brawn, brains and had a great sense of humour.  She's far from perfect though and I loved seeing her character grow through the story. And it wasn't just her character I enjoyed. From Lucky's female impersonator love interest, Teddy, to her madam mother, each character is unique and unconventional, but I didn't expect anything less with the Vegas setting.

This story moves along rapidly and the intrigue of the murder mystery as well as Lucky's personal life and history kept me flipping pages. Wanna Get Lucky has all the glitz, glamour and gambling of Las Vegas, along with all the oddities and unconventional scenarios one would expect.  They are all worked into the novel impeccably and nothing seemed out of place or unusual, even though Lucky does run into some highly unusual situations in her position as head of customer relations for the megacasino she works at. 

I can't wait to sink my teeth into the sequel, Lucky Stiff (Lucky O'Toole) and see what else Deborah Coonts has in store for us!

Kathryn - 5 Star

One of the best things about main character Lucky O’Toole (apart from her name!) is that the reader is treated to an extremely strong woman.  Despite her somewhat strange upbringing Lucky has fought her way to a very powerful position at a powerful business in a very powerful town.  All this strength though doesn’t mean that we aren’t also treated to an inner tier of Lucky’s personality with the love story side-plot of this murder mystery.

From the first few pages I was pulled into the mystery surrounding a woman’s fall from a helicopter in front of hundreds of tourists in the middle of the Vegas strip and so I immediately appreciated this chick lit mystery.  But further into the story, more than the actual plot, I think I enjoyed the characters the most. Nothing about this novel is conventionally romantic and for me this is what made it so much fun.  I definitely laughed aloud from the profanity-shouting bird Lucky’s got living with her to the female impersonator she seems to be falling for (definitely not your regular romantic love interest).  I really liked that Lucky was trying desperately not to let herself fall for this guy and is even looking for a connection with another man, Paxton Dane, a new employee of the casino she’s been working closely with.  This pushing away didn’t feel forced like it sometimes does with chick lit and it was really refreshing to read. 

Everything about this Coonts novel was vibrant, loud and unique and I thoroughly enjoyed it!
Thank you to Deborah's publicist for providing our review copy and the giveaway! All opinions are our own.

Follow Deborah Coonts: 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Minding Frankie by Maeve Binchy

4 Star

When Noel learns that his terminally ill former flame is pregnant with his child, he agrees to take guardianship of the baby girl once she’s born. But as a single father battling demons of his own, Noel can’t do it alone.

Fortunately, he has a competent, caring network of friends, family and neighbors: Lisa, his unlucky-in-love classmate, who moves in with him to help him care for little Frankie around the clock; his American cousin, Emily, always there with a pep talk; the newly retired Dr. Hat, with more time on his hands than he knows what to do with; Dr. Declan and Fiona and their baby son, Frankie’s first friend; and many eager babysitters, including old friends Signora and Aidan and Frankie’s doting grandparents, Josie and Charles.

But not everyone is pleased with the unconventional arrangement, especially a nosy social worker, Moira, who is convinced that Frankie would be better off in a foster home. Now it’s up to Noel to persuade her that everyone in town has something special to offer when it comes to minding Frankie.

Kathryn - 4 Star

One of the first “chick lit” books I ever read was by Maeve Binchy and it was passed to me by my grandmother when I was probably in my early teens.  Maeve Binchy for me is warm and familiar and feels like coming home and her latest novel is no exception.

I don’t have anything critical to say about Binchy’s writing and always relate in some way to many of her characters.  Her novels lately have included a multitude of personalities who relate to each other either completely or with delicately flimsy ties and these relationships not only thread their way through one novel but a character from one can be picked up again in another novel.  Sounds confusing but her writing doesn’t allow you to be confused in any way.  Each novel is able to stand alone but if you are a fan of Binchy there is the possibility that someone you liked in a previous book will pop up again in another.

I loved this novel and appreciated that she didn’t give us a predictable ending for baby Frankie and that Frankie’s father doesn’t fall for an obvious choice.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

If Wishes Were Horses by Robert Barclay

1 Star

Wyatt Blaine, still grieving the loss of his wife and son, decides to reopen the equine therapy program his late wife had begun.  When Gabby MacPhereson, the widow of the man responsible for Wyatt's grief, begs to enroll her son, Trevor, in the program, Wyatt reluctantly agrees.  As Trevor begins to respond to the therapy, Wyatt and Gabby find themselves drawn to each other, yet remain separated by tragedy.  Will they be able to navigate through forgiveness to find peace and love again?

Lydia - 1 Star

I don't want to do this, but I'm afraid I have no choice. The premise of If Wishes Were Horses intrigued me and it could have been great, but it fell flatter than a pancake for me.

This was a cheesy chick flick type novel that felt over the top with cariacture characters, forced plot and dialogue. On the cover it is compared to Nicholas Sparks, who I've never read before, so can't comment, but I hope they mean the story of love and redemption. I've seen The Notebook and I've no doubt the intention is for this novel is to be made into a movie - that's exactly how it reads - but If Wishes Were Horses lacked depth and emotion for me.  Hopefully the right acting and directing can pick up where this story lacks.

The love story between Wyatt and Gabby seemed off right from the beginning.  It didn't feel natural at all and their initial meeting to suddenly having weird feelings to wondering what those feelings were to falling madly in love just didn't jive.  Something about the progression seemed odd.  I also couldn't figure out why Wyatt would hold the accident against Gabby and Trevor. They weren't driving the car. I understood why he might not want the reminder of them there day after day, but the initial anger didn't seem justified and then the sudden thawing was odd too.  Trevor's angst at Wyatt though seemed slightly more realistic as he was a child at the time of the accident, but I still had a hard time with it all.  I also couldn't grasping Ram's huge secret and yes, it was sad, but the reaction of his sons seemed well over the top for me.

The dialogue felt forced and don't get me started on the dialogue tags 'he whispered stealthily' or the amount of exclamation points peppered through the dialogue!  I couldn't even get a feel for the setting much of the time or the description which went much like this: "Celia took another sip of Gabby's coffee.  It was hot and good", and my favourite "At forty five, Celia remained an attractive woman."  Really?  This sentence did nothing to help me picture the woman, all it did was offend me instead.

I was disappointed not to see more of the actual equine therapy in this novel. It was glossed over to focus on Wyatt and Gabby which was unfortunate as it would have added another layer to the story. 

There a few moments that I did wonder what was going to happen and the last scene before the epilogue was a bit of a surprise, but it didn't compensate for the rest of the novel for me.  I anticipate seeing this on the big or small screen soon where I hope it will redeem itself as a better screenplay than novel. 

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


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