Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Wedding Girl by Madeleine Wickham

2 Star

At the age of eighteen, in that first golden Oxford summer, Milly was up for anything. Rupert and his American lover, Allan, were an important part of her new, exciting life, so when Rupert suggested to her that she and Allan should get married to keep Allan in the country, Milly didn’t hesitate.

Ten years later, Milly is a very different person and engaged to Simon—who is wealthy, serious, and believes her to be perfect. Milly’s secret history is locked away so securely she has almost persuaded herself that it doesn’t exist—until, only four days before her elaborate wedding. To have and to hold takes on a whole new meaning when one bride’s past catches up with her and bring the present crashing down.

Kathryn - 2 Star

At first I wasn’t sure about the flow of The Wedding Girl, because I wasn’t attached to the characters the initial scene didn’t have a lot of draw for me. The story then jumped suddenly to ten years or so in the future and the connect ion for me was still lacking.  However I kept reading and did become involved in the story and the characters eventually.

Unfortunately even though I became involved I didn’t relate warmly to any of them and found the misunderstandings and confusion a bit frustrating and unrealistic.  The premise of the entire novel was unlikely to me so it was hard for me to sympathise with the problems.  I really could hardly believe that Milly would be able to keep to herself such a secret- especially as to me the secret really wasn’t anything to be so secretive about!

There were a few relationships that I did appreciate, (for example the connection between Milly and her sister as well as the relationship between Milly’s parents) and these probably were what kept me reading until the end. I felt her parents had a realistic break in their communication and could see reconciliation would be possible also for them and the sisters were really supportive of each other and I liked that.

In the end The Wedding Girl was fun and easily readable but I’ve enjoyed other Wickham and Kinsella novels more.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Girl in a Spin by Clodagh Murphy

5 Star

Jenny Hannigan might be a good-time party girl, but all she secretly craves is a life of domestic bliss and solid respectability - worlds away from her troubled upbringing back in Ireland.  So when she crashes into the arms of Richard Allam -- the young, handsome, recently separated politician hotly tipped to lead his party to victory in the upcoming election -- she thinks she's found her perfect match. 

Richard's spin doctor, charismatic publicist Dev Tennant, thinks otherwise.  Charged with putting a positive spin on the relationship, Dev soon discovers that Jenny has more than one skeleton in her closet - and as the election gathers momentum, he is working overtime trying to keep them there. 

 And as Jenny's life starts to spiral out of control, suddenly she isn't sure what she wants anymore ...
Lydia - 5 Star

I loved Girl in a Spin.  I was immediately immersed in the plot, laughed out loud frequently and grew so fond of the characters that I desperately wanted to know how this delightful story would end. 

I couldn’t help rooting for na├»ve Jenny.  She knows what she wants, and is determined to get it, so much so that she loses sight of what’s in front of her or just plain ignores it.  I wanted to shake some sense into her a few times, and couldn’t wait for her to figure things out, but it made her human and I adored her even more for it.  I loved that she wasn’t perfect and despite her less than ideal past, she didn’t use it as an excuse, but continued moving forward. I was quite taken with Dev’s character from the start and although I wasn’t a fan of Richard, I didn’t hate him and thought that he fully believed he was doing what he thought he wanted and was right.  Each character was well rounded with pasts and dreams and I could see all of their motivations clearly.

Although it seemed easy to decipher what was happening, the ride to get there was amusing and fun. Clodagh Murphy even managed to somehow make reading a story about politics enjoyable. This shocked me as I’m not particularly political minded, especially when they take place in a country far from my own, but it was detailed enough to be interesting, yet light enough that it wasn’t bogged down in too much boring detail.  The balance was perfect and I enjoyed the unusual topic that we don’t see very often in chick lit. 

There were even things in this novel that should have seemed over the top, but they somehow felt completely natural in this story.  The ex boyfriends club was unique and amusing and even though this might sound a bit ridiculous, it didn’t come across as such in the least.  Also, the scene where Dev comes to interview Jenny at her flat might have seemed a bit much told in other stories, but instead had me just short of rolling on the floor in a fit of giggles. And don’t even get me started on some of the one liners later from the snooty folks she has to have dinner with!

Clodagh Murphy is a talented new writer that I will definitely look out for. I can’t wait to read more from her and have been eyeing her debut novel, The Disengagement Ring since reading this lovely tale. 

Thank you to Clodagh Murphy for sending us a review copy! All opinions are our own.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Lucky Stiff by Deborah Coonts

4 Star

Lucky O’Toole--Head of Customer Relations at The Babylon, premier mega-resort on the Vegas Strip--thinks it’s just another night in Las Vegas.  A tractor-trailer has spilled its load of a million honeybees, blocking not only the Strip but the entrance to her hotel... the District Attorney for Clark County—apparently the odd man out of a threesome on the twelfth floor—is hiding in the buff in one of the hotel’s laundry rooms... and Numbers Neidermeyer--one of Vegas’ less-than-savory oddsmakers--is arguing with Las Vegas’ ace private investigator, the Beautiful Jeremy Whitlock.

The next day, Lucky discovers Ms. Neidermeyer was tossed into the shark tank at the Mandalay Bay Resort as a snack for the Tiger Shark.  When the police show up at the Babylon with a hastily prepared search warrant, applied for by the District Attorney himself, and Jeremy lands in the hot seat, Lucky realizes her previous night was far from routine.  

Amid the chaos of fight weekend, the hiring of an eccentric new French chef, and her madam mother's intentions to auction off a young woman’s virginity, Lucky is drawn into a deadly game where no one is what they seem, a game that will end only when she discovers who made fish-food out of Numbers Neidermeyer.

Lucky O’Toole and Fabulous Las Vegas—life doesn’t get any better.    

Lydia - 4 Star

Lucky Stiff is a who-done-it complete with 4-inch-heels and a girl who complains about wearing them and kicks them off as soon as possible. What’s not to love?  The sequel to Wanna Get Lucky, this novel picks up where we left off with Lucky O’Toole.  Everything is running smoothly in Lucky’s life until another murder takes place with ties to a friend and the hotel she’s head of customer relations for.  We are treated to more outrageous antics, politics, sex and intrigue amidst a Las Vegas weekend featuring an eccentric new head chef, a boxing match, a million runaway bees and a virgin auction. What could go wrong?

Lucky is a girl after my own heart with her casual style, voracious appetite and knock ‘em out attitude. I loved her character in the first novel, and that carried throughout the sequel.  She’s sharp, witty, loyal and fun, yet has some insecurity and doubt surrounding her relationships with both her boyfriend and her family.  When her boyfriend’s potential rise to stardom – at Lucky’s doing – throws her for a loop, I loved watching her worry and struggle.  I just plain loved their unconventional relationship from the first book through this one. Every scene with the two of them together put a smile on my face.

The story is as unpredictable as Wanna Get Lucky and there were several hints about something (no spoilers!) that popped out at me that totally surprised me by going in a different direction at the end of the novel.  This is mystery chick lit that’s fun, flirty and romantic and splashes the pages with all the craziness you would expect to find in Las Vegas.

Congrats to Coonts for a sequel that kept me just as entertained as the first novel, which usually does not occur.  Should we be treated to another book in the series, I look forward to seeing what adventures Lucky gets up to and I actually wouldn’t mind seeing either of these novels turned into a movie.

Kathryn - 4 Star
I read this sequel to Wanna get lucky? by Deborah Coonts immediately afterwards because I was completely engrossed in Lucky and didn’t want to lose fast paced feel I was enjoying- I wasn’t disappointed as the feel of the second novel was in line with the first.
I have to say though that although my general feelings were positive there were a few things that didn’t ring quite as bright with me in this second book. Although the investigation of the mystery was just as compelling and well interwoven into the plot I sometimes found it a bit confusing and I wasn’t clear until the very last pages what had happened and why- the players in the murder didn’t relate to each other as well for me and so I found myself going around in circles trying to determine who was who and why they didn’t like each other.  At the same time there was also much more time devoted to Lucky and her relationship in this second novel and that may have been distracting me a little bit. 
I also found the developing story between Lucky’s parents a bit soft, there were moments dedicated to their finding their love again and then they would be absent from the story for ages. There wasn’t much closure for me in this area and this wasn’t helped at all by the bizarre situation with her mother trying to sell off a virgin?  This didn’t add much to the plot for me although it was funny in places!
I loved the continued plot development with Lucky’s assistants Miss Patterson and Brandy- their characters were well developed and continued seamlessly from the first novel.  I liked that they were committed to their jobs and still showed realistic flaws and loyalty to both Lucky and their own jobs.
All in all I still found this sequel to be well written and amusing but there were a few holes for me that left me a disappointed.  I will still be looking for a third installment however because Lucky has definitely made an impression on me!
Check out our author interview with Deborah Coonts.

Thank you to Deborah Coonts for our review copy. All opinions are our own.
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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Georgia's Kitchen by Jenny Nelson

4 Star

At thirty-three, talented chef Georgia Gray has everything a woman could want—the top job at one of Manhattan's best restaurants; a posse of smart and savvy gal pals who never let her down; and a platinum-set, cushion-cut diamond engagement ring courtesy of Glenn, the handsome entertainment lawyer who Georgia's overbearing mother can't wait for her to marry. The table is set for the ambitious bride-to-be until a scathing restaurant review destroys her reputation. To add salt to her wounds, Glenn suddenly calls off the wedding.

Brokenhearted, Georgia escapes to the Italian countryside, where she sharpens her skills at a trattoria run by a world-class chef who seems to have it all—a devoted lover, a magnificent villa, and most important, a kitchen of her own. Georgia quells her longings with Italy's delectable offerings: fine wine, luscious cheeses, cerulean blue skies, and irresistible Gianni—an expert in the vineyard
and the bedroom. So when Gianni tempts Georgia to stay in Italy with an offer no sane top chef could refuse, why can't she say yes?

An appetite for something more looms large in Georgia's heart – the desire to run her own restaurant in the city she loves. But having left New York with her career in flames, she'll need to stir up more than just courage if she's to realize her dreams and find her way home.

Lydia - 4 Star

Georgia’s Kitchen is a story about a woman who is close to having it all, but suddenly finds herself with nothing when her world is torn apart.  Rich with detail, delectable food, and a delightful contrast between the hustle and bustle of NYC and the relaxed Italian countryside, this novel was a pleasure to read.  But how could you not enjoy a novel about food, New York City and Italy?

Georgia’s Kitchen is a story about a woman who is close to having it all, but suddenly finds herself with nothing when her world is torn apart.  Rich with detail, delectable food, and a delightful contrast between the hustle and bustle of NYC and the relaxed Italian countryside, this novel was a pleasure to read.  But how could you not enjoy a novel about food, New York City and Italy?

I could relate to Georgia’s character with some of her insecurities and dilemma when life throws you a giant curveball you weren’t expecting.  She’s a strong character and I loved watching her grow even stronger and coming to realize what she wants to accomplish after the upheaval. I felt most connected to her towards the end of the novel, so much so that I actually wished we had arrived at the last third of the book sooner and that it was lengthier.  I also think I wanted to see a bit more out of her friends. Maybe some of their dilemmas or insecurities and how Georgia deals with them? It was lovely that they were there for Georgia, but we never got to see how she would be for them in a crisis which might have endeared her to me more. 

I enjoyed the ‘it’s not too late’ theme of the novel for the thirty-something, or even younger, woman who may not have everything they pictured for themselves by a particular point in their lives.  This is a great lesson to be reminded off, in times of good and bad.  I also loved that her accomplishments didn’t come easily as some chick lit seems prone to have happen.  Georgia works hard, she’s disciplined and even then her dream was a long shot – which was difficult and frightening to swallow for someone who just took a year off work to write a book - yet it was also inspiring!  Women of all ages and places in life will be able to take something away from this novel. 

Even though I did find Georgia’s Kitchen a bit predictable, it did have me smiling at the end as well as various stages throughout and made me – yet again! – want to hop on a plane to New York and Italy.  I look forward to seeing what else Jenny Nelson has in store for us! 

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