Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Nanny Returns by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus

3 Star

After living abroad for twelve years, Nan and her husband, Ryan, aka H.H., have returned to New York to get her new business off the ground and fix up their fixer-upper. To compound the mounting construction woes and marital chaos of Ryan announcing his sudden desire to start a family, sixteen-year-old Grayer X makes a drunken, late-night visit wanting to know why Nan abandoned him all those years ago. Soon she is drawn back into Mrs. X's ever-bizarre Upper East Side conclave of power and privilege in this "eminently readable" and "surprisingly affecting" (Entertainment Weekly) tale of what happens when a community that chooses money over love finds itself with neither.

Kathryn - 3 Star

Unfortunately I found this sequel slow to get into- the writing style seemed a bit jumpy and I found myself re-reading paragraphs to see if I’d missed something.  This was really disappointing because I’d loved the first novel - I read it so long ago that having a hard time remembering who everyone was frustrating- it took me longer to get into the story.

I appreciated the fact that her charge was brought back in the sequel and we could find out what had happened to him - he was introduced quickly though and their initial meeting was strange and seemed bizarre for a teenager to search for a nanny he hadn’t seen in over ten years.  

The private school system in New York City was baffling to me.  I’ve seen movies and read books about the major money and parental involvement in these schools yet I still found the scenes regarding the school Nan worked almost absurd and frequently found the things that were occurring very scary.  It didn’t feel real to me so it made relating to the characters on that side of the plot difficult.

I also found it frustrating that her husband was away and left Nan to live in a wreck of a house-she didn’t really seem as bothered as I would have been peeing in a bucket and having to rescue her dog from the upper floor using a ladder?  Nan also had a new career that was never properly explained so I didn’t really get a good grasp of who she was now except through her relationship with her husband and family.  She also only has a relationship with friends described fleetingly and I didn’t think they added to the story-I liked the characters but they didn’t add very much for me. I felt there was more time was dedicated to MrX’s girlfriend than Nan’s own friends.

From the above it sounds as if I didn’t enjoy this sequel at all but once I’d finished it I did feel that I had enjoyed it.  The exposure of the feelings of a semi-grown up little boy looking for the love of his parents  was heart-wrenching and the whole novel made me think about how children can be so lost without the proper guidance.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Untold Story by Monica Ali

3 Star

When Princess Diana died in Paris's Alma tunnel, she was thirty-seven years old. Had she lived, she would turn fifty on July 1, 2011. Who would the beloved icon be if she were alive today? What would she be doing? And where? One of the most versatile and bold writers of our time, Monica Ali has imagined a different fate for Diana in her spectacular new novel, Untold Story.

Diana's life and marriage were both fairy tale and nightmare rolled into one. Adored by millions, she suffered rejection, heartbreak, and betrayal. Surrounded by glamour and glitz and the constant attention of the press, she fought to carve a meaningful role for herself in helping the needy and dispossessed. The contradictions and pressures of her situation fueled her increasingly reckless behavior, but her stature and her connection with her public never ceased to grow. If Diana had lived, would she ever have found peace and happiness, or would the curse of fame always have been too great?

Fast forward a decade after the (averted) Paris tragedy, and an Englishwoman named Lydia is living in a small, nondescript town somewhere in the American Midwest. She has a circle of friends: one owns a dress shop; one is a Realtor; another is a frenzied stay-at-home mom. Lydia volunteers at an animal shelter, and swims a lot. Her lover, who adores her, feels she won't let him know her. Who is she? 

Lydia - 3 Star

I really wanted to love Untold Story. I grew up watching Princess Diana, from laying on the floor my legs splayed behind me, hands cupping my chin as I watched her walk down the aisle to become a princess at the tender age of six (is it any wonder that I have ridiculous romantic notions?) to the demise of her marriage and untimely death and I couldn’t wait to devour this story. Sadly though, I was disappointed. 

Untold Story had an intriguing premise. How far would someone go to escape their lives?  Could such a high profile individual get away with it? How could they leave everything behind, especially their children?  I was fascinated, but somehow eventually grew disappointed. 

The novel begins with the hook of Lydia not showing up to her own birthday party and then flashes back one month.  This intrigued me, but shortly after we jumped backwards again to ten years prior which included a point of view shift to Lawrence, her trusted confidant and co-conspirator. It was he who helped her escape and its his death bed confession we’re privy too.  This provided much necessary information about how she was able to pull of her ‘death’, but I was more interested about how she was living and I would have loved to see it as her memories which I think would have endeared me to her more instead of hearing her anguish from a third party.  I simply didn’t care much for his perspective or voice and was pleased when this part of the story ended so I could continue on in the present. 

I really enjoyed Lydia’s friends. They were all interesting, dynamic characters and I would have liked to see more from them in the end, especially as she had never really experienced this level of friendship.  Although indicative of her level of trust and need to move on should anyone come close to uncovering her truths, she had grown to trust these woman and I would have like to see some more interaction with them.

All in all, I was disappointed and this Untold Story ‘fairy tale’ didn’t really hold up for me. 

Thank you to Simon and Schuster for the review copy! All opinions are our own.

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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Good as Gold by Louise Patten

4 Star

Edie Quentance is the odd one out in her family, a rebellious brunette among blond conformists. For generations, Quentance Bank has managed the private wealth of its rich clients. When Edie is pushed into joining the family business, she finds the work tedious. As a diversion, she seeks to uncover the truth about her great-grandfather Kit. Branded a coward and a thief, Kit Quentance escaped from Titanic and was rumoured to have carried a fortune into the lifeboat with him. Edie's excavations reveal shocking truths about Titanic's sinking, as well as unearthing far more recent secrets suggesting that Quentance Bank is not the paragon of probity it appears to be. As she attempts to right her family's wrong-doings, Edie's position becomes increasingly dangerous. Her twin brother, her parents, her uncle - is there anyone out there she can trust? 

Kathryn - 4 Star

Good as Gold was written with the reader in mind, it was simply and quickly read with enough description to make it colourful but not so much that you were bogged down.

I didn’t know anything about the story before I started reading and was taken in from the very beginning with the trip on the Titanic.  I did find that there were a few too many characters at first and the fact that some of them had nicknames didn’t help!  However at some point early on we’re given a nice little family tree which sorted it out for me. 
There’s a great plot in this story and I was enthralled with the secrets throughout the generations. The characters were well established individually and interacted well and I loved all the details and focus on boats.  I don’t know a thing about boats or sailing so it was all interesting to me- created that old fashioned sense of romance and intrigue too.
The only thing I found a bit tricky was the fact that the two brothers running the bank were so close and yet still didn’t know what the other was doing- this didn’t seem to fit with what we’d been told about them- I would have thought they were in on everything together.
I don’t really want to give too much away about the details here because it could ruin the mystery but it was definitely a good summer read and should not leave you disappointed!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Art of Saying Good Bye by Ellyn Bache

3 Star

She was the thread that wove their tapestry together.
With a group of women as diverse as the ladies from Brightwood Trace, you might not think them to be close. There's Julianne, a nurse with an unsettling psychic ability that allows her to literally feel what her patients feel, Andrea, a strong fortress sheltering a faltering core, Ginger, a mother torn between being a stay-at-home mom or following her career aspirations, and Iona, the oldest, whose feisty, no-nonsense attitude disarms even toughest of the tough. Not exactly the ingredients for the most cohesive cocktail . . . Until you add Paisely, the liveliest and friendliest of the clan, who breathed life into them all. 

But when their glowing leader falls ill with cancer, it's up to these women to do what Paisely has done for them since the beginning: lift her up. Overcoming and accepting the inevitability of loss, the women draw closer than ever; finding together the strength to embrace and cherish their lives with acceptance, gratitude and most importantly, love. Finally living with the vigor that Paisely has shown them from the start, they are able to see their lives in a new light, while learning to say goodbye to the brightest star they've ever known. Over the course of just three months, these four women will undergo a magnificent transformation that leaves nobody unchanged.

Lydia - 3 Star

The Art of Saying Goodbye has a Desperate Housewives element to it, with five neighbourhood friends, their lives and children intertwined as one of the women receives tragic news.  I love reading about the friendships between women and was looking forward to this novel, but unfortunately I was disappointed and couldn’t really get into it. 

The characters seemed disjointed and not genuinely interested in each other. Maybe this is where the novel should be interesting: even without developing deep and lasting friendships, just small interactions between individuals can have a huge impact on others. But unfortunately this didn’t even come through well for me as it all seemed rather forced. The novel focuses on each woman’s family and individual issues and interjects how Paisley seemed to improve their lives individually at some point in time. There is barely a shiver of female friendship in this novel.  Don’t expect Sex and the City juicy gossip sessions or the giving and receiving of advice.  It just wasn’t there with this acquaintance style neighbourhood story.  I guess I had just hoped for more with my love of friendship novels. 

There were too many perspectives and too many flashbacks in this novel. I would have loved to learn about each character through their interactions, but it just didn’t happen because they weren’t all really friends. So as soon as I would get into one woman’s story, I was thrown back in time or tossed to another woman’s perspective. The end result being that I never entirely got interested in any of their stories. Except Iona who I grew most attached to and was my favourite by far.

I didn’t even so much as crack a tear during this novel which I should have based on the depressing subject matter. I didn’t love The Art of Saying Good Bye, but didn’t hate it given that I was interested enough to want to see how the relationship between these woman would develop.  I was sorry it never did. 

Connect with Ellyn Bache:


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