Sunday, January 29, 2012

Hollywood Ending by Lucie Simone

3.5 Star
Trina Stewart needs cash. Fast. She’s barely got enough dough to keep her fanny off the streets, let alone any spending money for hot nights clubbing on Sunset Strip. And her job teaching English as a Second Language is seriously lacking in both pay and glamour. But not just any job will do. She’s after a real Hollywood job. The kind that makes her $100,000 in film school debt and ten years in Tinsel Town not seem like such a big fat waste of time and money.  But a girl can’t fritter away all her time fretting over her next paycheck, can she? Certainly not when a man like Matiu Wulf, a sexy Maori from New Zealand, parks his oh-so-fine self in the apartment above hers while he takes his best shot at Showbiz.

If only Matiu didn’t seem so… repelled by Trina. Really, though, it’s Los Angeles that Matiu finds so revolting. He’s only in L.A. to get some scene design experience to beef up his resume, and then he’s headed back to New Zealand to follow his dreams in peace, thank you very much. That’s his plan, anyway, until he falls hard for Trina…and Trina falls under the spell of a toothy-grinned wannabe actor who charms the pants right off her.

With Matiu on a mission to win Trina’s heart, and Trina on a mission to nail down that ever elusive Hollywood job, these two soon discover that when love gets tossed in the mix, life in Tinsel Town isn’t all red carpets, after parties, and celebrity gossip. In fact, Hollywood can be a downright bitch!

Sabrina-Kate - 3.5 Star

Hollywood Ending is definitely an apt title for the tale of Trina Stewart. Set in, you guessed it, Los Angeles, our leading lady is a woman with a plan. A plan that isn't exactly working out, but nonetheless, a plan. After having gone to a very expensive film school and not getting her break, Trina is stuck teaching ESL classes part time to barely scrape by. Despite it all, Trina has dreams of getting her big break while also turning her nose up at typical Hollywood types.

New neighbor Matiu, a hot Kiwi in town for a class and a history working in the film industry back home, piques her interest but turns her down a couple of times until all of a sudden he just can't get enough of her. Couple this with her budding relationship with recently met model/limo driver Blake and you have a book that reminded me of a 90210 plot.

Trina can't see to make her mind up between the two men yet has no problems playing the field with both of them while pining for one or getting distracted by the other.

And this is where the book started to kind of lose me a bit more: Matiu goes from being completely uninterested in Trina to being willing to change his life for her. She goes to obsessing about him to trying to constantly run away. Seems a bit flighty and perhaps more the actions of younger characters than people in their late 20s... but I suppose it is possible.

The book is a light read, a good kind of beach or bath book but nothing that will make you ache for the character or cheer them on. The writing style is very enjoyable though with a lot of witty repartee and play upon stereotypes that is good for a chuckle (or a few of them). I won't spoil the ending but the title may just say it all.

Thank you to Lucie Simone for our review copy! All opinions are our own.

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Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Baker's Daughter by Sarah McCoy

5 Star

In 1945, Elsie Schmidt is a naive teenager, as eager for her first sip of champagne as she is for her first kiss. She and her family have been protected from the worst of the terror and desperation overtaking her country by a high-ranking Nazi who wishes to marry her. So when an escaped Jewish boy arrives on Elsie’s doorstep in the dead of night on Christmas Eve, Elsie understands that opening the door would put all she loves in danger.

Sixty years later, in El Paso, Texas, Reba Adams is trying to file a feel-good Christmas piece for the local magazine. Reba is perpetually on the run from memories of a turbulent childhood, but she’s been in El Paso long enough to get a full-time job and a fiancĂ©, Riki Chavez. Riki, an agent with the U.S. Border Patrol, finds comfort in strict rules and regulations, whereas Reba feels that lines are often blurred.

Reba’s latest assignment has brought her to the shop of an elderly baker across town. The interview should take a few hours at most, but the owner of Elsie’s German Bakery is no easy subject. Reba finds herself returning to the bakery again and again, anxious to find the heart of the story. For Elsie, Reba’s questions are a stinging reminder of darker times: her life in Germany during that last bleak year of WWII. And as Elsie, Reba, and Riki’s lives become more intertwined, all are forced to confront the uncomfortable truths of the past and seek out the courage to forgive.

Lydia - 5 Star

The Baker's Daughter is riveting and haunting and I loved every word. A story of family, love and choices, this novel alternates between a vivid portrayal of World War II via Elsie as she comes of age during the war and Reba in the present day whose own traumatic life events have shaken her. As the two lives intersect, this novel shows how the past can help heal the present - if we're willing to listen.

I LOVED Elsie.  She's spunky, fearless and feisty. The choices she makes aren't always perfect, but she makes the best of every situation. I adored her in the present day story and could picture my grandmother in her and absolutely loved that. Her dialogue with her daughter and Reba and made me laugh out loud several times which was fantastic. Each and every character felt like I could reach out and touch them and I wanted to wander into the bakery in Texas that felt so warm and full of life with wonderful women and wisdom.

I am ashamed to admit I had never heard of Lebensborn and this is yet another reason this story will stick with me forever.  I love novels that teach me something, and this did - more than once.

The differing views of the war between various characters really stood out for me and it was interesting to see the portrayal as not just generational differences. This novel isn't just a story about a woman coming of age during the war. There are social and political layers that span the novel as well.  And it's all very subtle, and when you stop to think about it all.  Wow.

When intuition cracks the solid foundation of loyalty - to your family, your religion, your country, your job - how would you react?  The Baker's Daughter examines how each character handles the shady line between loyalty and intuition and there are many different examples to be had from Reba's father, Riki, the soldiers in Elise's town and Elise herself. The fates of these characters showcase how ignoring intuition leads to despair and disaster while listening to it may just lead down road to redemption.

As if the story and characters and learning a few things along the way weren't enough, the prose and detail in this novel were outstanding. The mouth watering description of the baked goods themselves almost had me running off to a local bakery several times - but I didn't want to put the book down to go! For those more adventurous, there are recipes included. With just enough detail for vivid scenes, I constantly stopped abruptly to marvel over a phrase. Here's one particular gem that stood out:  "A star burst like a corn from its kernel."

I can't wait to get my hands on more from Sarah McCoy.

Thank you to Crown Publishing Group for our review copy! All opinions are our own.

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Monday, January 23, 2012

Bond Girl by Erin Duffy

5 Star
When other little girls were dreaming about becoming doctors or lawyers, Alex Garrett set her sights on conquering the high-powered world of Wall Street. And though she's prepared to fight her way into an elitist boys' club, or duck the occasional errant football, she quickly realizes she's in over her head when she's relegated to a kiddie-size folding chair with her new moniker—Girlie—inscribed in Wite-Out across the back.

No matter. She's determined to make it in bond sales at Cromwell Pierce, one of the Street's most esteemed brokerage firms. Keeping her eyes on the prize, the low Girlie on the totem pole will endure whatever comes her way—whether trekking to the Bronx for a $1,000 wheel of Parmesan cheese; discovering a secretary's secret Friday night slumber/dance party in the conference room; fielding a constant barrage of "friendly" practical jokes; learning the ropes from Chick, her unpredictable, slightly scary, loyalty-demanding boss; babysitting a colleague while he consumes the contents of a vending machine on a $28,000 bet; or eluding the advances of a corporate stalker who's also one of the firm's biggest clients.

Ignoring her friends' pleas to quit, Alex excels (while learning how to roll with the punches and laugh at herself) and soon advances from lowly analyst to slightly-less-lowly associate. Suddenly, she's addressed by her real name, and the impenetrable boys' club has transformed into forty older brothers and one possible boyfriend. Then the apocalypse hits, and Alex is forced to choose between sticking with Cromwell Pierce as it teeters on the brink of disaster or kicking off her Jimmy Choos and running for higher ground.

Lydia - 5 Star

When Bond Girl popped up in my mailbox I had to read the cover to discover what it was about. Isn’t this cover fabulous!?! I’ve never been a huge shoe fanatic (somehow that’s changing – maybe all this reading about shoes in the last ten years?), but I couldn’t wait to crack this one. A girl who takes on Wall Street? In six inch stiletto’s? Bring it on! 

I loved this book.  Erin Duffy has a fresh, fun voice. She puts a new spin on the New York City girl – even if she’s still wearing Jimmy Choos.  Alex is a bond trader – not something you see every day in chick lit.  She’s smart, sassy and a little insecure when she begins working at Cromwell Pierce, but she’s willing to do what it takes to get ahead, and is pushed to the edge daily to it done.  

This book had some unique situations and I laughed at the trader’s antics and what Alex is forced to endure during her ‘probation’ – more like her hazing. The novel wasn’t bogged down in details about bond trading that would have bored me and what job specific information we were shown, Alex was just as confused about. The inside look at Wall Street – from a female perspective especially – was interesting.  Alex trudges and tiptoes through this still male dominated world amidst leers, sexual innuendo and having her intelligence questioned. There were some surprises in this novel and I was never sure which way it would go, which is always a huge plus.

The crazy routine and lifestyle portrayed in Bond Girl made my head spin.  The insane work hours, the after work socializing for work, the client lunches, dinners and everything in between. Time spent with friends and family lacking and the deficiency of sleep. There is no way on earth I would be capable.  I would have collapsed after a month and appreciated seeing how ragged Alex is run.  Admirable really.

Check out this novel today!

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

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Whisperer by Donato Carrisi

2 Star

Six severed arms are discovered buried in a forest clearing. They are arranged in a mysterious circle, and appear to belong to missing girls between the ages of eight and thirteen. But the rest of the bodies are nowhere to be found.

Criminologist Goran Gavila is given the case. A disheveled, instinctively rebellious man, he is forced to work with young female police officer Mila Vasquez. Lithe, boyish, answering to no one, Mila has a reputation as a specialist in missing children. She also has a tragic history of her own that has left her damaged, unable to feel or to relate to others.

Theirs is a fiery but strangely affecting working relationship - and as they uncover more secrets about the dark secrets in the forest, their lives are increasingly in each other’s hands…

Lydia - 2 Star

Thrillers were all I used to read when I was younger, before my obsession with Chick Lit began. I devoured the likes of Stephen King, Patricia Cornwall, James Patterson and Jeffrey Deaver and when the television shows like Criminal Minds and Dexter began I was in heaven. So I thought I would branch out and try another thriller after so long and had hoped The Whisperer would live up to the hype, but sadly it took me forever to get into this novel and in the end it fell completely flat for me.

This novel was quite disjointed.  The first half had barely any action and I struggled to keep reading. There was no flow and I kept getting distracted and would find myself staring off into space on the subway instead of reading - a rare occurrence for me, even with the abundant people watching. The narration kept flipping around and at times I had difficulty determining who was speaking and had to go back to figure it out.

Even in the second half when things got a little more active, I still couldn't find myself drawn into the characters or even much of the story. I didn't find it that gruesome. I've read much worse.  I kind of wish the story was told from Mila's perspective throughout. I think it would have dawn me into the story more, made me more sympathetic to her character and drawn me into the book further.

One final complaint - especially with this being a thriller - was that as I kept reading and had 12 pages left (I kept looking down to see how far I had left to go - never a good sign) the book suddenly wrapped up and left me hanging, with what I thought was twelve pages remaining.  This left me completely unprepared for the ending to come so swiftly with the author's notes comments and thank you's taking up the final pages. 

There were a few things that surprised me, but not enough to blow me over and convert this into an incredible read. There are rave reviews out there though, so let me know if you are a thriller fan and enjoyed this one.  I'm curious to know! 

Thank you to Little, Brown and Company for our review copy. All opinions are our own.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

150 Pounds by Kate Rockland

5 Star

In the fast paced life of blogging, two women stand out: Alexis Allbright, of Skinny Chick, and Shoshana Weiner, who writes Fat and Fabulous. Both have over five million loyal readers. Both are hungry for success. But the similarities stop there.
With over 100 pounds on the scale separating them, weight isn't their only difference. Alexis is a loner who is so bitchy the only person who can stand her company is her gay best friend Billy. She gives neurotic New Yorkers a run for their money with her strict daily workout routine, and weighing of food. Shoshana is Alexis’s opposite. Living in Jersey with rowdy roommates, she is someone who “collects friends,” as her mother puts it; and treasures a life of expanding circles...and waistlines.

When both appear as panelists on a popular talk show, their lives intersect in ways neither could have imagined. In turns comedic, heartwarming--and familiar to any woman who's ever stepped on a scale--Alexis and Shoshana realize they have far more in common than either could have possibly imagined, and more importantly, something to offer.

Lydia - 5 Star

150 Pounds is just as delectable as the cupcakes on the cover. It's an easy read with a weighty punch and all women will be able to relate to the issues in this novel, regardless of where on they fall on weight spectrum. I loved 150 Pounds and devoured it as quickly as I would those cupcakes. 
At first I was drawn to Shoshana's exuberant personality, loving that her extra pounds didn't get her down. But Alexis quickly took over and I rooted, almost screaming at times, for her to get her head out of her ass. There were several unexpected turns with Alexis's story which really took me by surprise, one of which I usually see coming, but I had no clue. I loved her love interest. He was patient and kind and ridiculously dreamy and I really enjoyed watching Alexis under his spell.

That's not to say I didn't enjoy Shoshana's storyline though.  Because I did.  Lots.  I loved the relationship she had with her family and that her purpose in life didn't seem to be finding a man, although if Prince Charming showed up, she'd definitely be game.  Her date stories were hilarious and I loved that one of her best friends was an ex-boyfriend and their banter back and forth was refreshing. Her storyline provided much comic relief as her character was more bubbly, friendly and funny than Alexis who was cold, withdrawn and serious.  

Each time the story flipped from one characters viewpoint to another, I barely flinched because I couldn't wait to see what was going to happen with each one. These women were as different as the cities they lived in and I loved the juxtaposition of New York City and New Jersey and thought each location suited each character perfectly. There are things in this novel that should be cliche or too 'perfect', like the gay best friend and Alexis's love interest's profession, but it never came across as such for me.  Everything in 150 Pounds seemed like a natural fit.

If you're looking for a fun read that tackles serious issues with heart, pick up 150 Pounds today. I can't wait to read more from Kate Rockland!

Thanks to Macmillan for our review copy! All opinions are our own.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Destined to Fail by Samantha March

4 Star
Jasmine Jones is ready to begin her new life as a college student, and is ecstatic to have best friend Abby by her side. But weeks into their new college life, Abby drops the bomb- she is pregnant, and dropping out of college. Jasmine can’t handle the fact that Abby is wasting her opportunity to get an education, and going back to her cheating, abusive boyfriend. She struggles to move on from her friendship with Abby, but befriends two new girls at college. Everything seems back on track for Jasmine- great new friendships and roommates, a strong relationship with boyfriend Nate, and excelling at her college courses. But Jasmine’s newfound happiness is shattered when her pregnancy test comes out positive. Does she have to drop out of college now and become a young mother? Will Nate stay with her? How can she afford a child? Jasmine’s life has been filled with obstacles and challenges along the way- from a missing father, sexual and physical abuse, and addictions that tore her family apart. With this latest setback, Jasmine fears her life will always be a struggle. Destined to Fail is one woman’s story about overcoming adversity in life, about taking the negatives and finding a positive, and about never giving up hope. 

Lydia - 4 Star

Destined to Fail grabbed me to the point where I couldn't stop thinking about the main character and her plight. I don't normally read YA, but made an exception in this case as Samantha and I had exchanged some writing a little over a year ago and I was eager to read and review her work and see how Jasmine's story developed. And this is an honest review - I do have some (hopefully helpful) comments below, but overall I really enjoyed this novel!

Destined to Fail grabbed me at the beginning and throughout I madly flipped pages to see what was going to transpire. I loved how Jasmine's character had secrets which were gradually revealed over the course of the novel. There's no easy reading in Destined to Fail, not one piece of fluff to be found.  The topics covered span abuse, addiction and teenage pregnancy and I applaud March for tackling such heavy issues.

There was some repetition that I noticed (sometimes I think I read too fast because this has been cropping up a lot for me lately), mostly involving Jasmine's younger brother being described several times as aloof and too cool as well as Jasmine's refusal to drink at parties. There is a scene with her brother that made my heart ache as he tries to protect her and I kept waiting to see more of their relationship, but it never transpired. There were also some scenes I actually wanted to be privy to that were glossed over including Jasmine's conversation with her mother towards the end of the novel which we are just told occurred, but it was an important one and I really wanted to be in on it.

Jasmine has such a strong positive attitude, regardless of what she had been through which I absolutely adored. She's confident, courageous, and thoughtful and even though she gets sad and why-me sometimes (understandably so), I wanted to see her get really angry at something. A fight with her mom (who is her best friend, which I had a difficult time believing after all she'd been through in her family) or her sister would have endeared her to me a little more I think and made her a bit more believable and fully rounded and is something I expected given her history and the situations she discovers herself in.

The blooming friendship with Kiley and Cari was entirely believable as was their dialogue and I could picture my younger self off at university, making new friends and getting ready to take on the world. I adored her boyfriend Nate and loved that the story didn't center around her finding a boy as he's in her life from the outset of the novel. Destined to Fail moves along at a brisk pace and March does a fabulous job of transporting us into Jasmine's world and her head as she navigates difficult situations that no woman should have to endure. Jasmine's optimism is encouraging and I loved how this story ends.

I definitely think a younger audience would enjoy this novel and when they gain a few more years, I have some younger readers who I'll definitely give Destined to Fail to read. Can't wait to see what Samantha March has in store for us next!

Thank you to Samantha March for our review copy. All opinions are our own.

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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Never Knowing by Chevy Stevens

4.5 Star

All her life, Sara Gallagher has wondered about her birth parents. As an adopted child with two sisters who were born naturally to her parents, Sara did not have an ideal home life. The question of why she was given up for adoption has always haunted her. Finally, she is ready to take steps and to find closure.  
But some questions are better left unanswered. 
After months of research, Sara locates her birth mother---only to be met with horror and rejection. Then she discovers the devastating truth: Her mother was the only victim ever to escape a killer who has been hunting women every summer for decades. But Sara soon realizes the only thing worse than finding out about her father is him finding out about her. 
What if murder is in your blood? 
Never Knowing is a complex and compelling portrayal of one woman’s quest to understand herself, her origins, and her family. That is, if she can survive. . . .

Sabrina-Kate - 4.5 Star

Sara Gallagher lives on Vancouver Island, BC. She has her dream job restoring furniture, a loving adopted family, a cherished daughter and is engaged to be married to a wonderful man. But only one thing is missing and always has been - knowing who her birth parents are.

The search begins and doesn't really take her far as her birth mother is located nearby and rejects the thought of having anything to do with Sara. On top of that, she also refuses to divulge any information about the name or location of Sara's birth father and becomes quite aggressive.

Soon the reason behind all this becomes clear as Sara investigates more and discovers that her father is a notorious and uncaptured serial murderer. He then starts contacting her and making impossible requests and using kidnapped women and bargaining tools. 

Sara's life spirals more and more out of control as she struggles to decide what is right and wrong, make decisions to protect others and worries about her own devious capabilities.

This book left me turning pages as quickly as I could, anticipating every next heart pounding moment.

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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Seven Year Switch by Claire Cook

3.5 Star

Just when Jill Murray’s finally figured out how to manage on her own, her ex-husband proves that he can’t even run away reliably. After seven long years missing in action, he’s back?crashing into the man-free existence Jill and her ten-year-old daughter have built so carefully. And what’s a good mother to do? To a child, even a deadbeat dad is better than no dad at all.
Jill’s life just hasn’t turned out quite the way she planned. By now, she’d hoped to be jetting around the world as a high-end cultural coach. Instead, she’s answering phones for a local travel agency and teaching cooking classes at the community center.
Enter free-spirited entrepreneur Billy, who hires Jill as a consultant for an upcoming business trip. Is their relationship veering off in a new direction? And what about her ex? Jill couldn’t possibly still have feelings for him . . . could she? Suddenly, her no-boys-allowed life is anything but.
They say that every seven years you become a completely new person, but Jill isn’t sure she’s ready for the big change. It takes a Costa Rican getaway to help her make a choice — not so much between the two men in her life, but between the woman she is and the one she wants to be.

Kaley - 3.5 Star

Ever since I learned Claire Cook wrote Must Love Dogs I wanted to check out one of her novels. I have to admit that I was a little wary when I was given Seven Year Switch to read - what happened if I didn't like it as much as I was expecting to? - but luckily, my fears were unfounded as I really enjoyed this book.

I'm a very fast reader so I managed to devour this book in a day but I think others would get through this book quickly as well. The chapters are short and the story moves along at a good pace. I found myself hooked after just the first couple of chapters.

While I only rated this at 3.5 stars, I definitely think other readers would rate this novel higher. I say this because I don't think I was the ideal reader for this book. The story follows a single mom and her journey to find herself while being the best mom she can be to her ten year old daughter. As much as I enjoyed reading this book, it's hard for me to really put myself in Jill's shoes when I'm nowhere even close to her stage in life. I actually found myself identifying more with Anastasia who desperately wants her dad to be around and doesn't quite understand why he's not. Should I always put myself in the main character’s position? No, not really. I just found I couldn’t quite relate to Jill as much as I would have liked.

I found that I was conflicted about who I wanted Jill to end up with in the end. Should she stay with Seth or try something new with Billy? What would actually be better for her? I'm pretty sure I'm happy with the way things turned out but I was still thinking about the conclusion for a few days after I finished the book. I found myself evaluating her choices right along with her. What I gathered was that Jill only thought she had two options – Seth or Billy. But what about a third option? How about neither? It sometimes seemed like she was trying to force either man into her life. She had such a fantastic life changing trip to Costa Rica that I think I was expecting a slightly different outcome. However, like I said, I think the ending works and am happy for Jill.

Overall, I liked Seven Year Switch. I didn’t love it but that doesn’t mean others wouldn’t. This is a great read for chick lit lovers, especially those who enjoy stories featuring strong single moms. This was a good read and I will make sure to check out more of Claire Cook’s books in the future.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Small Island by Andrea Levy

5 Star

It is 1948, and England is recovering from a war. But at 21 Nevern Street, London, the conflict has only just begun. Queenie Bligh's neighbours do not approve when she agrees to take in Jamaican lodgers, but Queenie doesn't know when her husband will return, or if he will come back at all. What else can she do? Gilbert Joseph was one of the several thousand Jamaican men who joined the RAF to fight against Hitler. Returning to England as a civilian he finds himself treated very differently. It's desperation that makes him remember a wartime friendship with Queenie and knock at her door. Gilbert's wife Hortense, too, had longed to leave Jamaica and start a better life in England. But when she joins him she is shocked to find London shabby, decrepit, and far from the golden city of her dreams. Even Gilbert is not the man she thought he was.

Kathryn - 5 Star

I’ve had this on my bookshelf for ages- apparently my mum has tried to get me to read it loads of times but I’ve resisted for no particular reason or just been easily distracted by other books landing on my to-read shelf- but I’m so pleased I finally got around to reading it.  Strange that I read it around the same time as The Help by Kathryn Stockett as it’s set at about the same period (or a little earlier) and explores Jamaican immigrants to England who served during the war for their mother country.  I feel like I was given another image for the people who could have landed in the U.S. and become the servants in the south but instead took their own path to England and tried to forge themselves a life in a country they believed should welcome them as compatriots.

It was particularly interesting to see the treatment of the Jamaican soldiers in the UK by the English versus the American soldiers stationed in the UK.  As I read the novel I felt like their welcome was better at the beginning of the war and as time progressed the prejudice seeped in to the English culture also.

The characters in this novel tell their own stories and it travels between four voices seamlessly telling their own backgrounds and how they came to be where they were in the present.  Their stories were sometimes gut wrenchingly honest and Levy is an amazing writer who creates clear worlds with very little description- there were even smells and sounds coming off the pages for me at times.

The novel doesn’t tell an entirely happy tale but most of the characters have an inexplicable joy despite the circumstances they find themselves in and I definitely loved Small Island.

I now have to tell my mother she was right.
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Monday, January 9, 2012

The Guy's Guy's Guide to Love by Robert Manni

3.5 Star

When Max Hallyday, a rising New York adman, joins a glitzy Midtown agency, he knows the game is winner-takes-all. But when his best friend Roger, a serial womanizer, seduces Max's billionaire client and puts his career in jeopardy, Max strikes back. He pens a column exposing the ‘Rogers’ prowling the city: The Guys' Guy's Guide to Love. Championed by magazine publisher and former flame, Cassidy Goodson, Max becomes famous… or is it notorious? 

With the women of New York clamoring for more, sparks begin to fly with Cassidy. Can Max survive his instant celebrity and cutthroat rivals to discover where his heart really belongs?  

Lydia 3.5 Star

The Guy’s Guy’s Guide launches us deep into the cut throat business world complete with lavish expense accounts, liquid lunches and dizzying office politics. It seems not much has changed since the portrayal of the Ad Men world in the sixties that Mad Men has given us – except maybe the gun wielding in the office.

I had worried about one dimensional characters when this novel began, but was pleasantly surprised after getting to know them all and found they weren’t wooden and seemed willing to change. There are quite a few characters involved, but they were relatively easy to tell apart. Interestingly, as much as I despised him, it was Roger’s journey that I found the most interesting.

I didn’t really find any earth shattering information on the male species in this novel and in fact, I now think that they’re even more complex than I originally thought.  It was amusing to watch them sort themselves out – the women too! – and rooted for them all to find love and happiness.  

Manni’s dialogue is sharp and interactions come across as genuine and real. A few things about the writing jumped out at me that I didn’t love and if they’d been absent would have vaulted this rating higher. The instances were low, but still noticeable and did detract from my overall enjoyment. There were times where the voice changed and bounced from character to character which was confusing, especially as each section was set as one characters viewpoint. I also found many chapters difficult to get going at times, especially when it started with one character bumbling around and it got to the point where I found myself skipping the initial bits until the action began.

There were also some timeline confusions for me, such as when Veronica found out about a deal much later in the novel than Roger and when she did, his timeline had advanced significantly, but hers hadn’t advanced in time at all. I wasn’t sure if I missed something and wasn’t prepared to flip back because I couldn’t even pinpoint exactly how far back I had to go.

I really do think though that with some workarounds for the above, Manni will find a wide audience as he has a great voice, and I would definitely read another.

Thank you to Robert Manni for our review copy! All opinions are our own.

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Robert Manni Stuck On A Desert Island

How would Robert Manni fare on a Desert Island?   First though, a bit about Robert: 

Robert Manni is President of advertising agency Agent16 in midtown Manhattan. For the past two decades he has watched, played and succeeded in Madison Avenue's relentlessly changing game. A true devotee of New York City, Robert is inspired by and remains in awe of its people, energy, attitude, and romantic backdrop. He is a world traveler, Reiki Master and teacher, certified advanced clinical Master Hypnotist, graduate of the Jose Silva Method/Life System, NYC Marathoner, and a bona fide 'Guy's Guy' who somehow survived twenty years of single life in the big city.  THE GUYS' GUY'S GUIDE TOLOVE is Robert's debut novel. He is currently working on his second book.

If you could only have one book with you, what would it be? 
That depends on how much time I’d be spending on the island. This is not ‘what is your favorite book’? This is about what book you’d choose to hunker down with. So, I’d probably want something meaty to chew on like Atlas Shrugged or maybe a book about escape and breaking boundaries like, Journey to Ixtlan by Carlos Castaneda. If I knew I’d be away for a year or so, I’d go for a big, whopping religious text like the Old and New Testaments to really see what the fuss is about, or The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche, which I’ve already read, but is worth a second look.

What one luxury item would you want to be stranded with?
Hmm, luxury, eh? Maybe a bottle of the finest aged, dark rum from the Caribbean.

What is the one practical item you would want to have with you to use?
Well, moist wipes would make the short list, but antibiotics would come in handy as would something to make fire or a sharp knife. Or a pen and a pad.

Would you enjoy the solitude, even briefly, or would it drive you crazy?
Yes, and yes. That said, it takes two to be alone. In this case, I’d have nature, the sea, and the fish and birds to connect with so I really would not be alone.

If you could be stranded with one other person, who would you want it to be?
My first thought was my wife, but when I asked her she told me that under the same circumstances that she would not want to put me through the hardship of being stranded and taken out of my life. So, plan B includes the opportunity to have a good long talk with Jesus or Moses or Siddhartha Gautama. However, a native islander (preferably female and gorgeous and wild) could help me build shelter and find food, etc.

What modern technology would you miss the most?
Ice would come in handy, but who can live without the clapper or a snuggie?

What food or beverage would you miss the most?
Does it have to be non-alcoholic? Maybe organic peanut butter. I crave it.

How many days do you think you would cope without rescue?
Whatever it takes. I’m a survivor and this is the ultimate challenge besides riding the C train in August.

What is the first thing you would do when rescued?
Watch an episode of ‘Gilligan’s Island’ from Manhattan, my favorite island.

What would be your first Tweet or Facebook update upon your return?
“Only in a crowd can you feel so alone”, which is from the song, Before They Make Me Run, by the Rolling Stones.

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