Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Introducing our New Reviewers!

We would like to extend a warm welcome to two lovely ladies, Kaley and Sabrina-Kate, who are our new reviewers!  After weeding through multiple applications, we decided that they met our criteria and matched our review 'voice'.  So, without further ado, here's some info about them, which will also be posted in the About Us section.  Please drop a line and give them a warm welcome. Their first reviews will be posted shortly!


Hey there! My name's Kaley and I'm one of the new reviewers for Novel
Escapes. I want to say thanks to Lydia and Kathryn for giving me a chance
to write for them. Here's a little bit about me...

I've been surrounded by books for as long as I can remember. I credit my
mom with my love of reading. She never discouraged my sister and I from
reading even when we should have been doing something else, like cleaning
our room or doing our homework. My love of books even translated into my
first two jobs. I worked at my town's public library all through high
school and then worked at a bookstore while in university and just after I
graduated. My favourite thing about those jobs (and the only thing I miss,
if I'm being honest) was being able to talk about books to customers all
day. Writing reviews (both for Novel Escapes and my own blog) is a way for
me to continue that. I will happily chat about books to anyone who will
listen, and sometimes even to those who won't!

I will admit (quite proudly) that chick lit is my favourite genre. I think
this stems from wanting to read something light and fun in between all the
textbooks I had to read at university. I try to read other novels as well
but I always seem to come back to chick lit.

I try to keep my reviews light, clever, and funny. If I don't love a book I
will not bash it because I don't think that's fair to the author. I give my
honest opinion and let other readers make up their own minds.

I'm excited to get started writing reviews for Novel Escapes and I hope
you'll have as much fun reading my reviews as I have writing them!

Sabrina Kate

I started loving books at a very young age. They were the
only thing that would keep me from screaming during family road trips and I
would look at the pictures until I learned how to read.

Always reading everything I could get my hands on, I remember
impatiently waiting for the Scholastic book package that I’d get every
summer for my summer reading. Characters like Booky, Fudge and Mary Lennox
opened my mind to a whole world of possibilities and stories.

Having adored books ever since, I always have a book (or several on
Kindle) with me at all times, even when out on a night out on the town!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

New Beginnings by Fern Britton

3 Star

Christie Lynch′s life is about to change - for ever.
A journalist and single mother of two, she can′t believe her luck when she is spotted by a talent agent during an appearance on daytime TV show, Tart Talk.
Soon the nation′s sweetheart, Christie can′t help but love her new job and, for the first time in years, she can mend her leaking roof and buy her kids, Libby and Freddie, a few treats. But as her career soars, Christie′s forced to spend more and more time away from her kids and from Richard - the gorgeous single dad she recently met at the school gate.
Can Christie find a way to balance her role as a mother with her increasingly demanding job? And will she make it in the cut-throat world of TV? Whatever happens, Christie′s going to give it all she′s got...

Kathryn - 3 Star

I picked up New Beginnings in England during my visit this fall and had never read anything of Britton’s before but was attracted to the cover as well as the synopsis on the back!
I found the dynamic of the family convincing and was happy that there seemed to be some distance between the death of the father and the present storyline and yet his passing was not completely glossed over.
The mother and daughter links were especially good, I appreciated the one between Christie and her mother, the frustration between them being simply because they are completely different personalities (from an outsider’s perspective this is obvious).  It was good to have their miscommunications next to Christie and her own daughter- having them side by side actually made the latter seem a lot easier to handle.  I also loved Christie and her sister, obviously they’re very close and loving but they fall out typically in a moment of frustration, and make up just as easily.  They made me smile.
The career storyline for Christie was actually a good percentage of the novel- the balance between her work and her home was well done and her conflict between tending to the two was obvious.  New Beginnings was a good who-done-it type of aspect to her agent also which definitely gave the whole novel some bulk as I found the romantic plotline a little obvious.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Island of Wings by Karin Altenberg

3.5 Star

July, 1830. On the ten-hour sail west from the Hebrides to the islands of St. Kilda, everything lies ahead for Lizzie and Neil McKenzie. Neil is to become the minister to the small community of islanders, and Lizzie, his new wife, is pregnant with their first child. Neil's journey is evangelical: a testing and strengthening of his own faith against the old pagan ways of the St. Kildans, but it is also a passage to atonement. For Lizzie -- bright, beautiful, and devoted -- this is an adventure, a voyage into the unknown. She is sure only of her loyalty and love for her husband, but everything that happens from now on will challenge all her certainties.

As the two adjust to life on an exposed archipelago on the edge of civilization, where the natives live in squalor and subsist on a diet of seabirds, and babies perish mysteriously in their first week, their marriage -- and their sanity -- is threatened. Is Lizzie a willful temptress drawing him away from his faith? Is Neil's zealous Christianity unhinging into madness? And who, or what, is haunting the moors and cliff-tops?

Lydia - 3.5 Star

I didn’t love Island of Wings and I didn’t hate it. I was interested enough to continue to see what happened and at times found it horrific and fascinating but overall, I’m just not sure this novel was for me. Island of Wings is a historical novel about the Island of St Kilda, the inhabitants and a Reverend and his wife who are posted there to guide the ‘savages’ into modern life.  Based on real people, the novel is a fictitious account of their life there, with historically accurate events and details.

Religious fanatics don’t appeal to me in any way, so the Reverend’s quest for redemption didn’t keep me reading.  Instead, I loved his wife’s story.  Lizzie’s plight among people that she couldn’t communicate with and who lived a completely foreign life to her with an increasingly distant husband was intriguing. I kept wondering what I would do in such a situation and with limited resources and in a time that a woman wasn’t able to make bold moves regarding herself or her family. 

Her loneliness was palpable and heart wrenching and I enjoyed watching her initially try to cope and eventually understand the natives more than her husband who was trying to lead them. The relationships she cultivated with the other women was heart warming and there was one scene in particular that actually had me giggling and yet another gagging. 

The pagan superstitions and rituals were fascinating and I found the attempts of the Reverend to crush them both irritating and amusing when unveiled how entrenched they were to island life.

The mysterious deaths of babies on this island broke my heart many times over and the entire way through the novel I wanted to know why. I was finally rewarded in the notes and acknowledgements, so if you’re interested in why the neonatal rate on the island was so high, keep reading.

The details and description of the Island were both gruesome and fascinating.  They lived on such barren land, yet the inhabitants somehow managed to survive. The details of all the birds eventually blended together for me, with the exception of how the islanders survived winter and the stench which was described many times over and actually had me gagging in certain instances. 

There were really long passages in this novel which I tended to grow cross eyed at and I had to check early on that St Kilda was a real place and where it was located as for some reason I apparently missed it. But that said, there was enough in Island of Wings to maintain my interest and keep me flipping pages.

Thank you to the House of Anansi Press for our review copy. All opinions are our own.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Mini Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella

3 Star

Becky Brandon thinks that having a daughter is a dream come true: a shopping friend for life! But two-year-old Minnie has a quite different approach to shopping. The toddler creates havoc everywhere she goes, from Harrods to her own christening. Her favorite word is “Mine!” and she’s even trying to get into eBay! On top of everything else, Becky and Luke are still living with her parents (the deal on house #4 has fallen through), when suddenly there’s a huge nationwide financial crisis.

With people having to cut back, Becky decides to throw a surprise party for Luke to cheer everyone up. But when costs start to spiral out of control, she must decide whether to accept help from an unexpected source—and therefore run the risk of hurting the person she loves.

Will Becky be able to pull off the celebration of the year? Will she and Luke ever find a home of their own? Will Minnie ever learn to behave? And . . . most important . . . will Becky’s secret wishes ever come true?

Kathryn - 3 Star

If you’ve read any of the Shopaholic series already this novel is exactly what you would expect it to be. I enjoyed it certainly for what it was and would definitely read another sequel just to see what happens next in the lives of characters but I definitely think the formula will leave no surprises to any reader.

I always find reading about Becky Bloomwood challenging because I absolutely cannot relate to her in any way!  I do not understand her need to shop, spend and live a life of subterfuge just to hide this habit. At some point during the novels I always want to shake her and ask her if she’s just that selfish or is she completely delusional?  Then I try to rein myself back and grasp that perhaps this addiction to spending should be treated like any other addiction and I should be more empathetic?  However I always keep reading, like rubbernecking on the highway, and am pleased when she finally sees some of the light.
Becky’s daughter Minnie isn’t a completely likeable child, I sort of wish she’d been portrayed as the perfect kid despite the sometimes bizarre influences of her mother- but that would not have left any room for improvement! There are a couple of surprising developments throughout so if you’ve enjoyed the previous novels then this one will not disappoint I’m sure.

Connect with Sophie Kinsella:

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Serving of Scandal by Prue Leith

4 Star

Kate McKinnon is thirty-six and mother to Toby. She used to be a restaurant chef but that all stopped when Toby - now five - came along and changed everything. Now she has a small but thriving business catering for private clients, companies and some government departments. Her life is on an even keel. Then she gets a job cooking lunch at the Foreign Office and has her first fateful meeting with Oliver Stapler, Secretary of State. He’s married and a father and totally out of bounds, yet she falls for him. She thinks she’s hiding it beautifully, but there are people who would like to see her fail and to them her feelings are all too transparent. When someone alerts the gutter press, who cares whether Kate’s affair with Oliver is true or not? It’s a great story and will shift a ton of newspapers - and destroy several lives at the same time.

Lydia - 4 Star

First, please do not judge this book by its cover!  I did.  And I was wrong.  Whoever designed this one was way off or if the publisher is trying to package chick lit in a different way, this is definitely not the way to go.  A Serving of Scandal sat in my to be read pile for ages before I finally picked it up, but I was pleasantly surprised when I did. 

Now the cover doesn’t really work because the photo of the woman along with the title had me expecting something more, well, Harlequin I guess, which really isn’t to my taste. But when I finally sat down to indulge in a little scandal I discovered the main character, Kate McKinnon, is an average woman. She’s a single mum to five year old Toby, heads her own catering company and barely has a moment to sleep, let alone time for romance.

When Kate is hired by the Foreign Office to cook, she finds herself befriended by the very married Secretary of State. It’s because he’s off limits that she doesn’t think anything of it, but later when she discovers she has developed feelings for him, her name is flashing all across the news.  She’s having an affair with The Secretary of State.  Only she actually isn’t.   

I found the political and celebrity gossip storyline interesting, especially as it explored how innocent people can be destroyed by the lack of empathy regarding whether the rumours they spread are even true. I liked how we were given Oliver’s side of the story through his own narrative and enjoyed how bumbling and naïve he was, which was also different to what I expected from this novel.

Kate’s job was different from the usual chef angle and showed how much work catering really is, especially as a single mother and how much work being a single mother is. Period. And the food had me drooling on every other page.

The friendship she had with Talika was warm and heartfelt and I loved how they were continually helping each other out with their businesses or kids and that Talika’s husband was so kind and protective of Kate.  It was such a lovely relationship and portrayed so well in the novel.

A Serving of Scandal was an interesting, easy read and one I wish had been ‘packaged’ differently.  This is one Kathryn probably should have read because I’m sure she would have loved it (and may still yet when get around to it). 

I would definitely pick up another by Prue Leith!

Thank you to McArthur and Company for our review copy.  All opinions are our own.

Connect with Prue Leith:

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

It's a Man's World by Polly Courtney

2 Star

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em… Alexa Harris loves a challenge. So when she’s asked to head up lads’ mag, Banter, she doesn’t need much persuasion. But life on the all-male editorial team proves harder than Alexa had imagined – and not just because of her ambitious targets. As Alexa battles with a testosterone-fuelled office, she decides to play the boys at their own game. As success hits, she’s forced to look at who she has become. Has she forfeited her principles in return for praise from the lads? And what price will there be to pay? 

Lydia - 2 Star

SPOILERS!  This is my first review with them so please do not read on if you don’t want to be surprised or offended that I’m spilling the beans. I apologize but I didn’t think I could write this review without them.   

It’s a Man’s World confused me. There was so much potential with this storyline, but Courtney didn’t capitalize on the great plot idea, the characters and especially the issues. This novel contained cliché characters, mixed messages, a supposedly strong protagonist that came across as weak and wishy-washy and an evil portrayal of men’s magazines that didn’t sit right with me.

Alexa was portrayed as a strong female character with a fantastic job, yet she was repeatedly spineless.  She could never make up her mind and/or talked herself out of the inappropriate conduct of her staff as well as her own inability to take action regarding their behaviour. Even at the end of the novel when she wants to make a stand, she tries, but her efforts go right over her boss’s head and she never bothers to set him straight.  So what was even the point then? The internal dialogue in this novel grated at me. Alexa’s thoughts were so jumbled, confused and repetitive that I grew desperate for more action and not just her thoughts about action or inaction. 

I discovered as this novel progressed that things always happened to Alexa. She never made anything happen herself. I love reading about someone overcoming obstacles and making their own fate instead of having everyone else dictate life for them - not to mention seeing this unfold in real life. I kept reading and waiting for her to make something happen for herself but sadly, she never did.

The romantic angle even confused me.  Under the impression that her boyfriend at the beginning of the novel was lovely, I waited the entire novel for Alexa to realize she loved him more than her work. Towards the end when she realized he was domineering and controlling, although we never saw any evidence of this, I was left baffled, and even more so by her love interest by the end of the novel. 

Every character in this novel seemed caricature-ish to me.  They only had one side to them, were never fully developed and I didn’t really like any of them.  I wanted to know why Georgie was so involved in her cause, why Alexa’s love interest doesn’t seem to care how his colleagues treated her and why the office ringleader was so despicable.  The only character I actually grew fond of was Sienna, the playmate type personal assistant - maybe because she was the only person that actually changed.

The men seemed ridiculous to me. Although I’m sure they exist, maybe I’ve just lived in a bubble, or been lucky enough to avoid men like this in a working or personal situation.  Sure, I’ve come across some real winners in my time, but none even remotely resembling these vile creatures. I have no idea why Alexa, the strong feminist, seemed to put up with their behaviour.

So, if the point of the novel was to make me think, it did.  I thought.  A lot. Especially about the sexual objectification of women and how this novel blamed it all on men’s magazines. 

This is where this novel went really wrong for me. It’s wasn’t the exploration of this issue, which kudos to Courtney for tackling it, but blaming it all on men’s magazines? Come on!

There are music videos, video games, women’s magazines forcing an idyllic beauty, not to mention role model and peer relationships that affect kids too. Has anyone seen any of the MTV programming lately?  By solely blaming the magazine for the sexual objectification of women, I felt it ignored these other facets of society that are equally to blame for the sexual objectification and violence against women. 

Speaking of violence, what about our cultural obsession with it? You can’t escape it. The media hones in on it, revels in it. You can’t flip TV channels in the evening without coming across something violent.  I personally would rather my child see a passionate kiss than a shooting or stabbing or got a peek at a nuddie magazine than play a game of Mortal Kombat. Sure there are ‘safeguards’ like over 18 restrictions in place, but kids ultimately get their hands on stuff. I don’t know one guy that didn’t discover someone’s magazines when they were young and they seemed to turn out OK. Maybe the generation after mine, which is who these characters are portraying, haven’t been so fortunate though? And if this is the case, I definitely needed even more in depth exploration of the issues.

The mixed messages this novel spewed were particularly evident with the following passage surrounding the defense of pornography. It came from Georgie’s character, the head of an award winning human rights organization that challenges the sexual objectification of women. Both Georgie and Alexa are on a morning news program in a heated debate about Alexa’s new phone app and the sexual objectification of women.  Georgie defends porn.  Wait what? 

‘That’s porn,’ argued Georgie, calmly. ‘And porn is fine.  Although its degrading to women, at least when we look at it we know it’s porn. We go out of our way to find it.  We know it’s not real. What magazines like yours have done is brought sex into the mainstream.  That’s far more dangerous than hardcore porn on obscure websites.’ … “Did you see videos of half naked women on a regular basis when you were growing up?’

I interject here that Alexa has made amateur nude videos more accessible via a mobile app, but aren’t the majority of mobile devices already internet connected and aren’t sites such as these already in existence? And the defense of porn by this feminist freedom fighter?  I don’t get it.  I really don’t.

And why yes, I did grow up with a half naked woman in music videos. Her name was Madonna. And considering the main character is close to a decade younger than me, I assume she grew up with her and many others too.  Oh wait, she wasn’t talking about music videos.  Because they’re in no way to blame.  Right.

I won’t go on, nor will I even try to profess that I can solve this issue, but I do believe there is more at play in the sexual objectification of women than just men’s magazines. 

I guess this novel touched a chord with me and made me think, and if that was the point, Bravo to Polly Courtney. I just feel its unfortunate that the issues weren’t explored further, that Alexa was so incapable to act and that the characters motivations, especially Georgie, weren’t divulged because if they had, It’s a Man’s World could have had a much more profound impact. 

Thank you to Polly Courtney for our review copy. All opinions are our own.

Connect with Polly Courtney:


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...