Friday, June 29, 2012

Thirst by Shree Ghatage

3 Star

Thirst is about many forms of desire--and most particularly, at its heart, about love unexpectedly found and lost during a difficult time (WWII) and in an unlikely spot: within a hastily arranged union between two young people who begin their marriage as complete strangers. The lovers are Vasanti, an intelligent woman who has nonetheless grown up naive and protected; and Baba, the scion of a prominent Brahmin family who longs to study in London, thus escaping the family compound in Nagpur. The novel moves between the lushness of India and the sombre grayness of London during the Blitz, even as Ghatage brilliantly unwinds the story of two conflicted people who, slowly but surely, learn to tolerate, then like, then passionately love each other just as their worlds fall apart.

Sabrina-Kate - 3 Star

Thirst is a book that had so much potential but then just fell flat. The beginning was confusing but a few chapters in, the story started to flow and I really enjoyed the amazing and vivid descriptions within. There was so much detail given to the story during the phase set in India with many nuances that seemed likely to be expanded upon, but once the main character relocated to England, the rest of the book just seemed rushed.

So much attention to detail was put forth at times and at others, I felt like the author was writing to meet a deadline. So much more could have and should have been done with this story. The story was rife with possibility and I'm not sure why it wasn't taken advantage of. It seemed to me like that was the intention but the reason why it never happened, I can only guess.

The ending of the book was also very unsatisfactory. I felt like it left me hanging and not in the good way where you can imagine all kinds of possibilities. This just felt like a solution to a problem not necessarily the end to a story.

I don't really have much more I can say about this book except that it started off strangely, got very interesting and then just petered out. A disappointment because I could have seen so many very good things happening and I'm not sure what transpired to prevent that. The novel is called Thirst and that is unclear why but it definitely left me with a literary thirst because it definitely did not quench anything for me.

Thank you to DoubleDay Canada for our review copy!

Connect with Shree Ghatage here:

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. by Nichole Bernier

4 Star

Summer vacation on Great Rock Island was supposed to be a restorative time for Kate, who’d lost her close friend Elizabeth in a sudden accident. But when she inherits a trunk of Elizabeth's journals, they reveal a woman far different than the cheerful wife and mother Kate thought she knew.

The complicated portrait of Elizabeth—her troubled upbringing, and her route to marriage and motherhood—makes Kate question not just their friendship, but her own deepest beliefs about loyalty and honesty at a period of uncertainty in her own marriage.

The more Kate reads, the more she learns the complicated truth of who Elizabeth really was, and rethinks her own choices as a wife, mother, and professional, and the legacy she herself would want to leave behind. When an unfamiliar man’s name appears in the pages, Kate realizes the extent of what she didn’t know about her friend, including where she was really going on the day she died.

Set in the anxious summer after the September 11th attacks, this story of two women—their friendship, their marriages, private ambitions and fears—considers the aspects of ourselves we show and those we conceal, and the repercussions of our choices.

Lydia - 4 Star

The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. is an unflinchingly honest novel about love, friendship, marriage and motherhood. It takes us on a journey through one woman’s life via her journals after her untimely death and that of her friend Kate to whom Elizabeth has bequeathed the journals in her will. Kate’s only instructions are that she determine their fate and that she must read them from the beginning.

I alternated between finding this novel extremely depressing and hopeful and uplifting. These two women didn’t really know each other at all – but how well do we ever really know someone? Our best friends? Husbands? Wives? And I found it really sad. To reveal our true selves takes courage and this novel follows one woman’s struggles to cope not only with the loss of her best friend, but 9-11 which occurred a short time later. As she reads, Kate begins to realize how little she knew Elizabeth and when she begins questioning her own life the journals help her come to terms with the debilitating fear she keeps hidden and struggles with in private.

The idea of leaving journals behind is something I’ve struggled with personally, so I found the exploration of how to dispose of them fascinating. I’ve kept journals off and on since childhood and I certainly don’t relish the thought of having anyone read them. The thought actually makes me nauseous and desperate to detonate them. But then again, maybe those closest to me would finally understand the real me, even if it wasn’t what they wanted to hear.

Elizabeth D is a reminder that we are all complex, multi-faceted people and that when we get comfortable with one side of a person, we may never look to see other sides or see how they may be struggling. There are many poignant revelations and thoughts in this novel and there were many sentences I re-read and went – Yes! That’s exactly it and would sit in wonder. This novel made me think. It made me appreciate my friendships and family. I made me want to reach out to all my girlfriends and give them a hug – especially all the mothers.

The portrayal of motherhood in this novel felt right to me, although I felt it overly depressing at times. It seemed a very honest portrayal and wish I could offer a more rounded opinion but I don’t have children. I have heard many stories of those with young toddlers and babe in arms though, so I think it was. Truth be told, at times this book made me question even having children because it was that depressing at times. The lack of support for mothers in our modern world was explored with these two women’s feelings of isolation and their meeting at an introductory baby and me playgroup. Didn’t it used to take a village?

Mothers that have felt lonely, isolated and desperate for adult conversation will appreciate this novel as will those that have ever felt judged by others. Girlfriends should read this and talk about it with each other. The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. would be fantastic for a book club with all the discussion it inspires. I look forward to more from Nichole Bernier!

Thank you to Crown Publishing for our review copy!

Connect with Nichole Bernier here:

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Lovers of Pound Hill by Mavis Cheek

4 Star

When city girl Molly Bonner arrives in the village of Lufferton Boney, she creates quite a stir. With her non-country-style boots, determined manner and alluring looks, she sets off a wave of intrigue that ripples through the lives of everyone there, from Julie the barmaid at the Holly Bush to antiques dealer Dryden Fellows and Montmorency the cat.

For Molly is a girl on a mission: to discover the truth behind Lufferton Boney's most notorious resident, the giant (and slightly obscene) Gnome etched into the face of Pound Hill. And along the way, she has some personal demons to settle...

Kathryn - 4 Star

The Lovers of Pound Hill isn’t odd because of the subject matter (although it’s probably a little weird if you’re not from the UK) but odd because the characters are all a little bit quirky and stand out from each other- it’s not in many books that each character has a personal agenda and so vibrant a personality.

As a child I was taken to see many white horses, tall men and other such ancient displays across the English countryside so a gnome with a large appendage seemed perfectly within the realm of normal to me and I initially pictured the gnome a bit like the Cerne Abbas Giant in Dorset.  To be honest though, despite seeing all these amazing things as a child and teenager, I probably remember the picnics in fields and feeding nearby ponies more clearly so the fact that Cheek gave me a little bit of historical education and some information about archeological process (my sister holds a masters in Egyptology, you’d think I’d paid attention at some point) was a bonus.

The story surrounding the excavation of the gnome was well mapped out and in a small English village one would expect to find some “characters” but this one has its’ share and more- I particularly warmed to the local nobles, the pub owner and a cat named Montmorency.  Although I found the initial introduction to the villagers a bit confusing (there are at least three people whose first names start with D) they did quickly separate and become intriguing and I waited impatiently with them to find out what was beneath the gnome and the secrets it held.  One might be a little disappointed in the end results but once I really thought about the significance I had to accept that nothing more appropriate could possibly have been held in trust to the gnome and the village.

Thank you to Arrow for our review copy!

Connect with Mavis Cheek here:

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Wife 22 by Melanie Gideon

4 Star

Maybe it was those extra five pounds I’d gained. Maybe it was because I was about to turn the same age my mother was when I lost her. Maybe it was because after almost twenty years of marriage my husband and I seemed to be running out of things to say to each other.

But when the anonymous online study called “Marriage in the 21st Century” showed up in my inbox, I had no idea how profoundly it would change my life. It wasn’t long before I was assigned both a pseudonym (Wife 22) and a caseworker (Researcher 101).

And, just like that, I found myself answering questions.

7. Sometimes I tell him he’s snoring when he’s not snoring so he’ll sleep in the guest room and I can have the bed all to myself.
61. Chet Baker on the tape player. He was cutting peppers for the salad. I looked at those hands and thought, I am going to have this man’s children.
67. To not want what you don’t have. What you
can’t have. What you shouldn’t have.
32. That if we weren’t careful, it was possible to forget one another.

Before the study, my life was an endless blur of school lunches and doctor’s appointments, family dinners, budgets, and trying to discern the fastest-moving line at the grocery store. I was Alice Buckle: spouse of William and mother to Zoe and Peter, drama teacher and Facebook chatter, downloader of memories and Googler of solutions.

But these days, I’m also Wife 22. And somehow, my anonymous correspondence with Researcher 101 has taken an unexpectedly personal turn. Soon, I’ll have to make a decision—one that will affect my family, my marriage, my whole life. But at the moment, I’m too busy answering questions.

As it turns out, confession can be a very powerful aphrodisiac. 

Lydia - 4 Star

Wife 22 is like a grown up Bridget Jones’s Diary but the difference is that it isn't quite all giggles. A novel about love, marriage, and family and how modern communication affects it all, Wife 22 is cute, fun, funny and easy read. With just as many insecure antics as Bridget, Alice is about to mark the anniversary of her mother's death. But this year is different, this year Alice is surpassing the age her mother had lived to which deeply unsettles her.

We meet Alice as she is struggling to understand her increasingly distant husband, worries that her daughter has developed an eating disorder and fears that her son might be gay but won't tell them. When an email appears in her inbox inviting her to take part in a survey about marriage, Alice accepts, but doesn't tell her husband and as she begins to answer the questions, she begins to further question her marriage. Eventually the emails between her and 'Researcher 101' become an anonymous Facebook friendship assumed under fake profiles and takes on a life of its own.

You can't help but relate to Alice.  Even though I couldn't justify her behaviour myself, she's just too real with her confusion and worries not to relate or be sympathetic to her character. Alice is troubled, confused and worried about everyone around her - except herself, which she should be the most worried about!  Her answers to the survey questions draw a humourous portrayal of the current state of her marriage as well as such a romantic history of when she met her husband. Her answers were romantic at times, funny at others, and sometimes really sad. My heart broke for this woman who wondered where her life - and her love - had gone.

Wife 22 skips from prose, to Google searches, to Alice's answers to the questionnaire, to Facebook chats, to Tweets, back to Facebook status updates, and scenes. But it wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be to read. I actually found it different and refreshing to read something out of the typical literary box and thought it realistic of how we now communicate. 

Even though it was amusing to try and figure out the survey questions Alice was posed the one thing I do wish was that I had the questions and answers together instead of just the answers throughout the novel and the questions as an appendix. At the end they didn’t have as much impact as I feel they would have throughout the novel because some of her answers I couldn’t even figure out what the question was.  I was also disappointed that Alice didn’t focus more on her daughter, especially with the worry about her having an eating disorder.

Even though I usually loathe predictability, I wasn’t even disappointed when I guessed what was going on about half way through, which speaks volumes for this novel.  Full of quirky and loveable characters and a modern portrayal of a family and marriage, Wife 22 is a fun, funny and thought provoking read. I'm looking to more from Melanie Gideon!

Thank you to Ballantine Books for our review copy

Connect with Melanie Gideon here:

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Always the Designer, Never the Bride by Sandra D. Bricker

3 Star

It’s taken Audrey Regan years to establish herself as a wedding dress designer, and to date she’s been roped into creating dresses for nine of her girlfriends. Request #10 follows her vow to “Just say no!” and comes from her very best friend. She can hardly turn Carly down!         

Audrey arrives in Atlanta early to perform all of her maid-of-honor duties along with final fittings for a one-of-a-kind dress. But Carly’s wedding is nothing short of an event, complete with Prince Charming, and the festivities make Audrey question whether there’s a prince of her own anywhere in her future.  

Enter the groom’s brother and best man. Shaggy-haired, tattooed bad boy J.R. Hunt couldn’t be any more different from Prince Charming if he rode in on a Harley Davidson.  Oh, wait. He actually did ride in on a Harley!

Kathryn - 3 Star

There was nothing really new about the storyline to Always the Designer Never the Bride, but I did like the bridal gown business background as I haven’t run into it before- it was interesting to me from an educational stand point!  I probably would have liked even more information about the process and time it actually takes to make a bridal gown and it would have given more character depth to Audrey perhaps.

There a lot of other characters which I found a bit confusing at first and it took me some time to get them all straight - I’m not sure if they were really all integral to the plot. I did enjoy Audrey’s assistant Kat as she was the most life-like of the characters, more so even than Audrey at times, she was bubbly and charming and had a secondary interest in jewellery design which made her interesting in her own right.

A bit peculiar to me was Audrey’s childhood friend Carly. While she was sweet, I never felt any attachment to her directly except as the reason they were in Atlanta in the first place. I think much more could have been made of their friendship and it was strange to me that as her best friend Audrey would be staying in a hotel rather than with Carly given what happened after the wedding.

I found this novel cute, not sure if that’s exactly what an author or potential reader wants to hear but to me it means that there’s a decent story line, the characters are warm and engaging and that you feel satisfied with the end result.  I’m curious now to read one of Bricker’s earlier novels of the same series.

Thank you to Abingdon Press for our review copy!

Connect with Sandra D. Bricker here:

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Kissing List by Stephanie Reents

5 Star

The interlocking stories in The Kissing List feature an unforgettable group of young women – Sylvie, Anna, Frances, Maureen – as their lives connect, first during a year abroad at Oxford, then later as they move to New York on the cusp of adulthood. We follow each of them as they navigate the treachery of first dates, temp jobs and roommates, failed relationships and unexpected affairs – all the things that make their lives seem full of possibility, but also rife with potential disappointment.

Sabrina-Kate - 5 Star

I had never heard of The Kissing List before and was quite pleasantly surprised in every way about it. At first I was a bit confused though with the short story format but quickly I got used to it and actually preferred it as it was a great way to take a break between reading sessions.

The short stories eventually connect the stories of the four main characters together by weaving a story of their lives in early adulthood, beginning with a year abroad and culminating with living in New York City. Since I've always loved NYC yet am fully aware of how difficult it would be to try and create a life there, I really enjoyed the very realistic way the jobs, or lack thereof, love lives and socializing were portrayed in this book. It made me feel like I could really identify with each of the characters, not just one in particular, which was a refreshing way to view a book for me.

The stories resonated with me, even though I could perhaps not identify directly with what was going on, I could definitely identify with the emotions, hopes and dreams portrayed within. It was a book that made me laugh, sigh, cry and cringe at times but in that way you think, "Oh I've been THERE before."

More about every day events and very much less about kissing, or very superficially so, this book was quite enjoyable though the title may have been a bit misleading. I wonder how it was decided upon but nevertheless, I highly recommend picking up this book for a very lovely read.

Thank you to Hogarth for our review copy! 

Connect with Stephanie Reents here:

Thursday, June 7, 2012

I Couldn't Love You More by Jillian Medoff

5 Star

Eliot Gordon would do anything for her family. A 38-year-old working mother, she lives an ordinary but fulfilling life in suburban Atlanta with her partner, Grant Delaney, and their three daughters. The two older girls are actually Eliot's stepdaughters, a distinction she is reluctant to make as she valiantly attempts to maintain a safe, happy household . . .

Then Finn Montgomery, Eliot's long-lost first love, appears, triggering a shocking chain of events that culminates in a split-second decision that will haunt her beloved family forever. How Eliot survives-and what she loses in the process-is a story that will resonate with anyone who has ever loved a child.

Lydia - 5 Star

I Couldn't Love You More will probably make my Top 5 reads of the year. I loved every word.  Women’s fiction with grit, heart and soul, I Couldn't Love You More intimately portrays one contemporary family that is pieced together and cemented with love. Humour, heart breaking tragedy and hope grace these pages as Medoff deftly explores family, a mother's love, and an unbreakable sisterly bond.

I do not have children, nor do I have any sisters – both of which are at the heart of I Couldn't Love You More, yet somehow this didn’t prevent me from relating and adoring this novel. Captivated from the first few pages, I devoured this story at every possible opportunity and almost missed my subway stop several times.

Eliot is not a woman who is floundering when we first encounter her. She’s a mother, stepmother and partner and she loves her life. It isn't always perfect, but she's content, does not crave anything, nor does she have any unfulfilled dreams. So when Finn Montgomery, Eliot's first love, and the one she pinned over for a decade, moves back to town, Eliot becomes confused and her fulfilled life becomes muddled as she reminisces, daydreams and shuffles her feet across the line.

Eliot's partner, Grant, is dreamy, kind, an incredible father, and just plain wonderful. Finn is a creepy, self indulgent, tasteless arse. I couldn’t understand what Eliot was thinking with her reminiscing. I couldn’t fathom what was happening and as soon as I was close to writing Eliot off, being utterly unable to comprehend her behaviour, this novel takes a breathtaking twist. I don't always read the synopsis of a novel or by the time one has sat in my To Be Read pile, I've forgotten it and I actually really like to be surprised. The unpredictability as well as the predicament shook me to the core. Honestly - it was probably the most surprise a novel has taken me by since...well, maybe ever...The thousands of people crowded around me on the subway disappeared and I almost sailed straight past my stop (and not for the first time).

A mother's love and a modern family are central in I Couldn't Love You More and portrayed with unflinching honesty including all the messiness, imperfection and unyielding love they encompass. The emotions are real, believable and heart wrenching and I felt every one of them. I laughed and cried along with Eliot, her daughters, her sisters and her mother and I loved watching her relationships with all of these women grow and evolve and I equally loved all their characters. There are so many themes in this novel surrounding family that I can't even begin to explain or explore, nor do I want to spoil.

I'll stop gushing now so you can go buy the book. There are quick links above so you can start reading Medoff's words now!  Take this one to the beach this summer. You won't be disappointed.

Thank you to Hatchette for our review copy!

Connect with Jillian Medoff here:

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Reality Jane by Shannon Nering

2.5 Star

Reality Jane follows Jane Kaufman, a Canadian journalist who, by stroke of pure luck, finds herself in LA, a producer on a hot new reality show. A small-town girl thrust into the Hollywood scene, she regards her new producing career as a one-way ticket to the big-time. And between mingling with rock stars, attending Grammy parties, and visiting the Sex Kitten Mansion, Jane's rocketing career makes her the envy of her friends. 

And there’s more! Along come not one but two guys vying for her heart, and then, through connections, she lands the cherry gig of all time: a producer’s post on TV’s hottest new self-help talk show. But the deeper Jane ventures into reality TV, the more completely un-real her life—personal and professional—becomes.

Amazon      Kindle       Kobo      Nook
Kaley - 2.5 Star

Reality Jane by Shannon Nering was one of those books that I wanted to like but just…couldn’t. The negatives came both from the writing and the main character and even though I wasn’t a fan of this one I still finished the book because I needed find out what happened to Jane.

Sometimes I can deal with a book if the writing is less than stellar but the story is great but when both are lacking I struggle to get through it. The flow of Reality Jane was really confusing to me. There were strange jumps and conclusions that the reader was expected to make.  For example, early on in the book there’s a scene where Jane and Toni (her assistant) are talking at work about taking a trip to San Diego. That chapter ends and the next begins by Jane reading directions off a business card that should be leading her to meet some mysterious guy named Craig. Who is this Craig and why is Jane heading to a party at his house? I assumed that they met while in San Diego but I wasn’t given any clues to prove or deny that guess. It turns out that I was correct in my assumption but my issue is that I shouldn’t have had to make an assumption. Sometimes it’s OK to jump into a scene with both feet but this particular instance was difficult for me to follow.

The novel  kind of dragged a little bit for me. There was a lot going on and lots of parts to the story that didn’t have the connections or flow that it needed to have. I also had no idea what sort of timeline it was on. One minute Jane’s just been transplanted to LA and the next she’s been there for seven months…or was it eight? Or almost a year? I was honestly confused at some points and I think Jane was too because there was a “six months later” heading, and then she said she had been dating Craig for almost eight months, but had only been working for seven. My math skills aren’t the greatest but I’m pretty sure a grade school child could tell you that six, seven, and eight are all different numbers. 

I do have to say that I love that Jane was Canadian. It always makes me giggle to see stereotypes play out in books and movies and Reality Jane was no different. There was one memorable scene (which I will be paraphrasing) where Jane gives some change to a homeless man. Afterwards he says, “So you’re Canadian.” Jane confirms this and asks him how he knew. “The gold coin with the duck on it tipped me off.” This exchange made me laugh out loud and I relayed it to my boyfriend later that night because I knew it would amuse him as well. 

Overall, I can’t say that I thoroughly enjoyed Reality Jane by Shannon Nering. The premise is solid (going behind the scenes of reality television) but I think the way the story is told needs a bit of tweaking before I could readily recommend it.

Thank you to Bancroft Press for our review copy!

Connect with Shannon Nering here:

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Secret Life of William Shakespeare by Jude Morgan

1 Star

The greatest writer of them all, brought to glorious life.

How well do you know the man you love? How much do you think you know about Shakespeare? What if they were one and the same? He is an ordinary man: unwilling craftsman, ambitious actor, resentful son, almost good-enough husband. And he is also a genius. The story of how a glove-maker from Warwickshire became the greatest writer of them all is vaguely known to most of us, but it would take an exceptional modern novelist to bring him to life.

Kathryn - 1 Star

The title of this novel really spiked my interest and I was expecting intrigue and suspense and even some little tidbit about Shakespeare that the author had discovered hidden in a churchyard in England somewhere, but unfortunately I was completely disappointed.

I read the entire book hoping that something was about to happen on the next page and it took me ages to read it so it was a few weeks (!) of wasted anticipation.

The author I believe was trying to imply a few things with this story line- perhaps that Shakespeare had had a lover in London, perhaps that he was interested in men as well as women and perhaps that the fact that he didn’t get along very well with his father made him pursue acting and writing in the first place.  None of this was particularly interesting or even news to me and I found myself re-reading paragraphs trying to find more than a hint of something else but to no avail.  I found it equally frustrating that there were very few references to his works and there could have been some mention of them during the novel to give us a sense of timing in his life.

The only redeeming fact for me was that the character of Anne Hathaway was quite well established and their relationship was well planned out and weaved nicely throughout the novel.  

If you’re really really interested in Shakespeare then perhaps you’ll find a little known fact I missed but on the whole I wish I could give this novel a better review but I just couldn’t find anything to hang on to and I don’t think I’ve ever fallen asleep reading so easily.

Thank you to Headline for our review copy!


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