Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Lessons in Heartbreak by Cathy Kelly

4 Star

Izzie Silver left the small Irish town of Tamarin behind for New York. Life is good - until she breaks her own rules and falls for a married man.

On the other side of the ocean, Izzie's aunt Anneliese discovers the pain of infidelity for herself.

Then Lily, the wise and compassionate family matriarch, is taken ill. At her bedside back in Ireland, Izzie discovers a past her grandmother has never spoken of, while Anneliese feels despair mount. The one person she could have turned to is starting to slip away.

The lessons each of the women learns -- both past and present -- bring joy and heartbreak. And the hardest lesson of all is learning to let go.

Kathryn - 4 Star

Lydia and I had the good fortune to be invited to a reading with Cathy Kelly in the spring and this is one of the novels I had not yet read of hers.  I actually found it a little bit different in style from her latest novel which was exciting especially as I enjoyed it just as much.  

The novel is set in both New York and small town Ireland and travels back and forth between main character Izzie’s current life and her childhood- it also explores her relatives’ lives in both the present and the past.  The writing is fascinating in the simple way Kelly covers two places and two time periods without causing confusion for the reader. I think Cathy Kelly did a wonderful job giving us a good visual for all scenarios. Izzie is real and loveable and I felt a true desire for her to get what she wanted out of life.  I also loved her grandmother and her history very much and appreciated the parallels between her past and Izzie’s present.
The one thing I had hoped would be explored in more depth was the history of Izzie’s home in Ireland- one of the characters was set up to do a history of the town which I thought was going to relate to Izzie’s grandmother more but it was sort of left off in the end and I was a bit disappointed that that didn’t tie in.
All in all a happy Cathy Kelly read for me!

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

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Monday, September 19, 2011

Little Black Dress by Susan McBride

4 Star

Two sisters whose lives seemed forever intertwined are torn apart when a magical little black dress gives each one a glimpse of an unavoidable future.

Antonia Ashton has worked hard to build a thriving career and a committed relationship, but she realizes her life has gone off track. Forced to return home to Blue Hills when her mother, Evie, suffers a massive stroke, Toni finds the old Victorian where she grew up as crammed full of secrets as it is with clutter. Now she must put her mother’s house in order—and uncover long-buried truths about Evie and her aunt, Anna, who vanished fifty years earlier on the eve of her wedding. By shedding light on the past, Toni illuminates her own mistakes and learns the most unexpected things about love, magic, and a little black dress with the power to break hearts . . . and mend them. 

Lydia - 4 Star

Little Black Dress was a great little book with a mysterious little black dress! This story about family secrets captured my attention and I loved the slow reveal over the course of the novel. 

I thought the alternating narrative suited this story and kept me intrigued as it passed back and forth from mother to daughter while unravelling their family secrets. There were aspects that I found predictable, which was unfortunate, and took away from the novel somewhat for me (I’d read something similar recently).  In the end though, I still enjoyed watching Toni uncover the truth about her family and all the characters coming to terms with their past and look forward to their futures.

And speaking of the future, how about that little black dress?  Would you want a glimpse of the future if the opportunity presented itself or would you prefer not to know?  This mystical dress sends each woman down different paths in their lives, bringing them together at various points and veering away from each other at others.  I still have no idea what I would do, but suspect I would follow along Evie’s line and keep it hidden, digging it out as a last resort. 

I enjoyed all the characters, thought they were well developed and even though I didn’t necessarily agree with all their choices, they were always explained and based on their characters they seemed plausible. I enjoyed Evie’s story just as much as her contemporary daughter and became immersed in the description of her era from the courtship with her husband to the family dynamics and history of the vineyard.  

The ending surprised me, but it was a pleasant surprise and I won’t divulge much other than to say it was probably the only real unexpected part of the novel for me and it didn’t seem out of place or unnatural to the story.  I quite liked it actually. 

Be sure to pick up Little Black Dress if you’re looking for a great family saga spanning generations with a bit of a mystical edge. I look forward to more from Susan McBride!

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

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

My Jane Austen Summer by Cindy Jones

4 Star

Lily has squeezed herself into undersized relationships all her life, hoping one might grow as large as those found in the Jane Austen novels she loves. But lately her world is running out of places for her to fit. So when her bookish friend invites her to spend the summer at a Jane Austen literary festival in England, she jumps at the chance to reinvent herself. 

There, among the rich, promising world of Mansfield Park reenactments, Lily finds people whose longing to live in a novel equals her own. But real-life problems have a way of following you wherever you go, and Lily's accompany her to England. Unless she can change her ways, she could face the fate of so many of Miss Austen's characters, destined to repeat the same mistakes over and over again. 

Lydia - 4 Star

My Jane Austen Summer was a unique tale full of…well, Jane Austen and even managed to contain a paranormal aspect.  A story of moving on and growth, this novel was slow to start for me as I found the main character, Lily, slightly over-depressive at first, but eventually I grew eager to find out her fate. 

Lily Berry moves half way across the world to escape her crumbling life. She lost her job, her boyfriend just dumped her, calling her needy along the way, and she is still grieving her mother’s death while her father has already moved on.  Lily always finds solace in Jane Austen’s works and when the opportunity arises for her to join a Jane Austen festival as an actor in England, she doesn’t flinch or waste a second making the arrangements, even though she she’s barely acted in her life, nor can she afford the trip.

I am not a huge Jane Austen fan and look forward to hearing what Kathryn thinks of this one because she’s much more interested than I am.  This, however, did not hinder my enjoyment of the story too much and I grew eager to find out Lily’s fate and enjoyed watching her find herself and begin to change her life in direction she wants it to take.

It did take a while to warm to Lily’s character and it probably wasn’t until I was halfway through that I started to have much more interest in her as opposed to the unique characters she meets along the way.  At times I wanted to shake her, especially when it came to her roommate, but she gradually changes her ways in time. 

The ending wasn’t typical and not exactly what I expected, but I enjoyed it none the less.  Not entirely predictable, I liked how Lily grew in her role at the institute, her self discovery and growth and enjoyed her little shadow’s antics.  I wasn’t sure exactly whether all her issues were resolved, but I think that’s the fairy tale ending I’m usually looking for and this one’s right on the money for real life.  Not everything ends up picture perfect in My Jane Austen Summer, but is a work in progress, which is exactly what we see here. 

I look forward to reading more from Cindy Jones!

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

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Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Beauty Chorus by Kate Lord Brown

4 Star

New Year's Eve, 1940: Evie Chase, the beautiful debutante daughter of a rich and adoring RAF commander, listens wistfully to the swing music drifting out from the ballroom, unable to join in the fun. With bombs falling nightly in London, she is determined that the coming year will bring a lot more than dances, picnics and tennis matches. She is determined to make a difference to the war effort.

5th January, 1941: Evie curses her fashionable heels as they skid on the frozen ground of her local airfield. She is here to join the ATA, the civilian pilots who ferry Tiger Moths and Spitfires to bases across war-torn Britain. Two other women wait nervously to join up: Stella Grainger, a forlorn young mother who has returned from Singapore without her baby boy and Megan Jones, an idealistic teenager who has never left her Welsh village. Billeted together in a tiny cottage in a sleepy country village, Evie, Stella and Megan must learn to live and work together. Brave, beautiful and fiercely independent, these women soon move beyond their different backgrounds as they find romance, confront loss, and forge friendships that will last a lifetime.

Kathryn - 4 Star

Truthfully I was a little apprehensive starting to read this novel as I’d just finished a book about World War I that had some visually gory details. I was hoping not to have another tough read like this back to back and was quickly thankful this novel, although set in World War II, was not so graphic and I was given a reprieve. 
I got into this storyline immediately and was drawn into the intertwining lives of these three women doing an unusual job at an unusual time.  The whole business surrounding aviation in WWII was completely new to me and I read each detail with fascination so the educational parts of the novel were equally as engrossing as the fictional story line.  I think the plot was really well thought out and gave a good idea of life for the female pilots.  I can’t imagine how strange it must have been trying to get on with such dangerous jobs while being made to feel like you didn’t belong doing the job with the men. 
I only have a couple of lingering things that didn’t quite fit- first there’s a story being told by a famous female pilot during the first part of the novel and she’s explaining a bit about her final flight before she crashed and I found it distracting and irrelevant.  Secondly the very end of the novel turned a touch James Bond for me, although I could appreciate that it added a bit of drama, I found it too much and unnecessary.
Having read the final pages of The Beauty Chorus I was really wishing it wasn’t over yet and I could find out more about the girls and their futures, definitely a good story.
Thank you to Corvus Books  for our review copy. All opinions are our own. 

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Friday, September 2, 2011

The Single Girl's To-Do List by Lindsey Kelk

5 Star

Rachel Summers loves a to-do list:
Great job

NOT on the list:
Being dumped

Best friends Emelie and Matthew ride to her rescue with an entirely new kind of list - The Single Girl′s To-Do List. Rachel doesn′t know it, but it will take her on all kinds of wild adventures - and get her in some romantic pickles too. And then it won′t be a case of what but who she decides to tick off...

Mr. bendy yoga instructor
Mr. teenage sweetheart
Mr. persistent ex
Mr. deeply unsuitable

The Single Girl′s To-Do List gives Rachel the perfect heartbreak cure - and proves love is out there if you′re willing to take a chance.

Lydia - 5 Star
So, I really just want to write my review as:

“Buy this book.  Now.” 

That’s how much I loved The Single Girl's To-Do List.  I think I loved it even more than the I Heart series – shocking, I know – and it wasn’t just due to the fact that there was a little bit of a Toronto connection... 

Rachel’s character captured my heart.  I instantly related to her and rooted for her every step of the way while she mended her broken heart.  Not a typical road to recovery consisting of ice cream, tears and horrific renditions of ‘All by Myself’, the ‘Single Girl’s To-Do List’, concocted by her two best friends, helped Rachel rediscover who she is, how much she is capable of and opened her eyes to all that she wants to do. Not to mention provided much amusement and many laughs along the way.

Rachel’s best friends, Emelie and Matthew were constant sources of wisdom and giggles and as much as they all might have all bickered, their love for each other came shining through. I loved the throw back to classic chick lit with the gay best friend and loved their characters just as much as Rachel’s. 

The love interests were laughable and loveable and sometimes even surprising, which I enjoyed. The connection to the I Heart series (no spoilers!) was fun and the ending had me grinning from ear to ear.  I will definitely be rereading this book at some point and that’s not something I say lightly given time constraints and the continuous stack of books beside my bed demanding to be read.

The Single Girl's To-Do List had me smiling, laughing, giggling and cheering. Have I said I loved it already?  I have?  Well, I can’t stop gushing.  I loved it. I’m not sure I’ll ever stop reading Lindsey Kelk.  Ever...

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

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