Sunday, September 30, 2012

So Far Away by Meg Mitchell Moore

3 Star

Thirteen-year-old Natalie Gallagher is trying to escape: from her parents' ugly divorce, and from the vicious cyber-bullying of her former best friend. Adrift, confused, she is a girl trying to find her way in a world that seems to either neglect or despise her. Her salvation arrives in an unlikely form: Bridget O'Connell, an Irish maid working for a wealthy Boston family. The catch? Bridget lives only in the pages of a dusty old 1920s diary Natalie unearthed in her mother's basement. But the life she describes is as troubling - and mysterious - as the one Natalie is trying to navigate herself, almost a century later. I am writing this down because this is my story. There were only ever two people who knew my secret, and both are gone before me.

Who was Bridget, and what became of her?

Natalie escapes into the diary, eager to unlock its secrets, and reluctantly accepts the help of library archivist Kathleen Lynch, a widow with her own painful secret: she's estranged from her only daughter. Kathleen sees in Natalie traces of the daughter she has lost, and in Bridget, another spirited young woman at risk.

What could an Irish immigrant domestic servant from the 1920s teach them both? As the troubles of a very modern world close in around them, and Natalie's torments at school escalate, the faded pages of Bridget's journal unite the lonely girl and the unhappy widow - and might even change their lives forever.

Kaley - 3 Star

I knew from the synopsis of So Far Away, written by Meg Mitchell Moore, that the novel was going to be darker than what I usually read. I was right. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing but I wonder if I would have liked it more if this was the kind of book I generally gravitate towards.

It was quite hard to read about the bullying that Natalie was being subjected to. By no means is it the worst that anyone would have heard of but it’s still unnecessary and so cruel. I’m sure everyone can remember what it was like in high school. Maybe it was you who was at the brunt of the jokes, maybe you were the one making fun, or maybe you just let things happen without speaking up. Reading stories like this make me realize that things are so different for teenagers today yet some things are so similar. The type of bullying and the vehicle (social media, cell phones) is slightly different but the fact is kids are still being bullied. I imagine if someone reading this had a teenager, in particular a daughter, they would feel a lot more…defensive? motherly? protective?...of Natalie.  Since I don’t know anyone who would be in that kind of situation now, I didn’t have the personal connection. I’m still glad that novels like these are being written. Everyone, not just parents, need to open their eyes and realize that innocent kids, like Natalie, are being targeted for no apparent reason and that can lead to some horrible outcomes.

I think my biggest issue with this novel was that I just didn’t connect with the characters. I wanted to be more invested in their lives but I just wasn’t feeling it. I believe this is definitely a personal preference and I’m sure there are others out there who would love Natalie and Kathleen.

I found that I wasn’t very invested in the story until Natalie found Bridget’s journal. For some reason this historical aspect of the novel really interested me. It created a mystery – one that I desperately wanted to solve. In fact, by the end of the book I found that I was speed reading so I could find out how Bridget’s story would end. Then, just as we figured out her story, a few other major incidents occurred. One, which involved Natalie, was expected. Another, involving Kathleen’s friend and coworker, was a bit of a surprise (I should have seen it coming but I didn’t).

Overall, I found So Far Away to be an alright book. I didn’t love it but I didn’t dislike it either. As I’ve said, I’m sure there are readers out there who would really enjoy Meg Mitchell Moore’s novel and I encourage them to read the book and find out for themselves.

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

Connect with Meg Mitchell Moore here:

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Fine Colour of Rust by P.A.O'Reilly

4 Star

Loretta Boskovic never dreamed she would end up a single mother with two kids in a dusty Australian country town. She never imagined she’d have to campaign to save the local primary school. She certainly had no idea her best friend would turn out to be the crusty old junk man. All in all, she’s starting to wonder if she took a wrong turn somewhere. If only she could drop the kids at the orphanage and start over . . . But now, thanks to her protest letters, the education minister is coming to Gunapan, and she has to convince him to change his mind about the school closure. And as if facing down the government isn’t enough, it soon becomes clear that the school isn’t the only local spot in trouble. In the drought-stricken bushland on the outskirts of town, a luxury resort development is about to siphon off a newly discovered springwater supply. No one seems to know anything, no one seems to care.

With a dream lover on a Harley unlikely to appear to save the day, Loretta needs to stir the citizens of Gunapan to action. She may be short of money, influence, and a fully functioning car, but she has good friends. Together they can organize chocolate drives, supermarket sausage sizzles, a tour of the local slaughterhouse—whatever it takes to hold on to the scrap of world that is home.

Lydia - 4 Star

Loretta Boskovic doesn’t take herself too seriously, her love for her kids is palpable, and her sense of social responsibility is admirable. She’s an easy character to love and root for and The Fine Colour of Rust is both humourous and heartwarming.

Loretta’s fantasies about being whisked away from her life by a gorgeous man with fancy wheels had me giggling all the way through. You know it’s just her fantasy and you can’t help but relate. Who hasn’t wanted to disappear at any stage, particularly mothers with children having a ‘moment’? Loretta wasn’t the only character to make me titter either. The Fine Colour of Rust has a cast of quirky characters including Loretta’s unusual best friend - not only an older man, but a junk dealer. Her female friends provide amusement as do almost all the characters in the town. And even though they’re quirky, they all come across as incredibly real.

Despite the humour, The Fine Colour of Rust is also heartfelt and has serious undertones, from dead beat dads to a struggling single mother as well as political and social issues. This novel held many moments that made me sit back and think and I even shed a few unexpected tears.

O’Reilly’s writing style is easy to read and I loved that this novel takes place in Australia, where my brother has been living recently for school. I have yet to visit, so this novel was a nice introduction to the country (and didn’t frighten me away as much as Bill Bryson’s Down Under). The description in this novel is perfect for my tastes- just enough information about the area, the oppressive heat and the small town angst and doesn’t get bogged down with too much detail. 

The Fine Colour of Rust is about real life, which makes it utterly relatable. There are no fancy shoes to be had. Instead we follow a single mother struggling to make the best life she can for herself and especially her kids and anyone can relate to this, even if you’re not a mother.

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

Connect with P.A. O'Reilly here:

Monday, September 24, 2012

A Promise of SafeKeeping by Lisa Dale - Samantha March Review

Please welcome Samantha March, author of Destined to Fail, who has dropped by to share on of her recent favourite reads, A Promise of Safekeeping by Lisa Dale.

First the synopsis of A Promise of Safekeeping:

Nine years ago, Lauren Matthews prosecuted the case of a lifetime. But her error in judgment sent an innocent man to prison for a long time. Now Arlen Fieldstone has finally been released, and Lauren has only one thing on her mind: asking forgiveness. How can she make up for nine years of his life? 

To get to Arlen, Lauren must first get through Arlen's best friend, Will Farris. Will hasn't forgotten Lauren from those days, and he hasn't forgiven her for destroying his best friend's life. He is Arlen's keeper, protecting him from suspicious neighbors as well as from Lauren. 

In the steaming summer streets of Richmond, Virginia, three people's lives collide. Lauren needs forgiveness. Arlen needs hope. And Will? He needs something too, something that no one can know-especially not Lauren...

Samantha March - Guest Review

A Promise of Safekeeping by Lisa Dale is an eye-opening tale of redemption, a beautiful story filled with hope that will tug at heartstrings. Lauren Matthews was a fresh-paced young woman just starting her career when she got thrown on the case of a lifetime. Using her skill of “people-reading” to help lock up the case, she was the victor – and an innocent man went to jail because of her error. Arlen is now released from prison after nine years behind bars for a murder he did not commit, and Lauren seeks him out, hoping for forgiveness. She runs into his friend Will, about the only friend Arlen has left upon his release. In her quest for Arlen’s forgiveness, an unexpected friendship is formed between the person who helped Arlen go to his prison and his childhood friend. 

I thought A Promise of Safekeeping was a fascinating story, and one that I could not put down. It’s impossible not to feel incredibly sad for Arlen, a man who was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, and a legal case that got hurried along to be “solved.” It was interesting to watch how Lauren felt and how she tried to take action to make up for a past mistake. Will’s character was loyal to Arlen yet struggled with his feelings for Lauren, and he also had a secret that he was keeping hidden from everyone – family included. The story moved at a quick-enough pace for me, not real fast but it didn’t drag along, and the ending – oh the ending. No spoilers, but the ending bumped this up from a 4 to a 5 star review. One to read!

Thank you Samantha!

Samantha March fell in love with books at a young age. Thanks to her mother and grandmother, both avid readers, Samantha followed in their footsteps. Field trips to the library highlighted her week, and she went on to do volunteer work at her local library while in middle school. Her early works closely resembled characters from The Baby-Sitters Club and Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen movies. 

In high school, Samantha excelled in writing courses and even the mundane tasks of writing history papers. A slew of real work wake-up calls caused Samantha to shelve her dream of becoming an author. She took what she considered the practical route and enrolled in a business college in Des Moines, Iowa, where she graduated with honors in 2009. But her thoughts of writing never dissolved. In October of 2009, Samantha started the book blog From her small blog, Samantha meant fellow readers and writers who pushed her to continue her goal of becoming published.

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Destined to Fail is the debut novel from Samantha March, and was published by Marching Ink in October 2011. Samantha currently lives in West Des Moines, IA with her fiance and jumbled cast of friends who help inspire her writing. Besides reading, writing, and ChickLitPlus responsibilities, Samantha enjoys sports- especially the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Cubs- and will never refuse ice cream.

Connect with Samantha March here:

Connect with Lisa Dale here:

Read the Novel Escapes review of A Promise of Safekeeping by Lisa Dale.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

How Lucky You Are by Kristen Kusek Lewis

4 Star

In the tradition of Emily Giffin and Marisa de los Santos, How Lucky You Are is an engaging and moving novel about three women struggling to keep their longstanding friendship alive. Waverly, who's always been the group's anchor, runs a cozy bakery but worries each month about her mounting debt. Kate is married to a man who's on track to be the next governor of Virginia, but the larger questions brewing in their future are unsettling her. Stay-at-home mom Amy has a perfect life on paper, but as the horrific secret she's keeping from her friends threatens to reveal itself, she panics.

As life's pressures build all around them, Waverly knows she has some big decisions to make. In doing so, she will discover that the lines between loyalty and betrayal can become blurred, happy endings aren't always clear-cut, and sometimes you have to risk everything to gain the life you deserve.

Kathryn - 4 Star

This story absolutely crept up on me. I thought I was reading a fairly standard novel of friendship and marriage but it wasn’t until about halfway through (when I was hit with intense scenarios and a depth of emotion I wasn’t prepared for) that I realised how differently Lewis’ novel really was playing out.  It threw me mostly because when I began reading I didn’t initially warm to her writing style (I now blame this on the e-format copy I was reading as the page formatting wasn’t good) and I hadn’t realised how much the story had grown on me until the main events unfolded.

The women’s lives are complete opposites, our main character has a fairly normal life but some large secrets she’s keeping from her boyfriend and friends, one friend is set to be a governor’s wife with prestige and an emphasis out her outward appearance and the other is living a white picket fence fantasy with some dire behind-the-scenes consequences.

Their relationships evolved even in the short time span of the book- and I liked that Kate and Waverly had met Amy in their twenties and that they weren’t all friends from grade school. This example of being able to form lasting friendships at any age was well done despite the fact that they didn’t actually have much in common. I also found it interesting that although they were intensely different characters there wasn’t any catty female jealousy between the women- frustration and longing perhaps for something the others had - but not enough to cause conflict.

Lewis brought in parents, families and coworkers just enough to give them all warmth but it didn’t distract at all from their bonds to each other.  Towards the end of How Lucky You Are Amy’s family is more involved in the story line and they were perfectly placed to be realistic.  Given the intensity of the plot Lewis brought people in and out with perfect precision.

I wish I could give more details but this novel would be ruined if I said too much. Lewis’ message about friendship and one’s own inner happiness is loud and clear and I loved How Lucky You Are.

Thank you to Grand Central Publishing for our review copy. All opinions are our own.

Connect with Kristen Kusek Lewis here:

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom

3 Star

The man who became Father Time.

In Mitch Albom’s newest work of fiction, the inventor of the world’s first clock is punished for trying to measure God’s greatest gift. He is banished to a cave for centuries and forced to listen to the voices of all who come after him seeking more days, more years. Eventually, with his soul nearly broken, Father Time is granted his freedom, along with a magical hourglass and a mission: a chance to redeem himself by teaching two earthly people the true meaning of time.

He returns to our world—now dominated by the hour-counting he so innocently began—and commences a journey with two unlikely partners: one a teenage girl who is about to give up on life, the other a wealthy old businessman who wants to live forever. To save himself, he must save them both. And stop the world to do so.

Lydia - 3 Star

This was my first Mitch Albom novel. Somehow I’ve never gotten around to reading The Five People You Meet in Heaven or any of his others so I jumped at the chance to review The Time Keeper when it appeared on Netgalley. I can see how prolific Albom has become, but The Time Keeper didn’t resonate with me as much as I wished it had and I love me a good fable (The Alchemist, my all time fave).
The concept of The Time Keeper fascinated me. Time. I never have enough of it. Or I waste it. Or I wish there was more. Or I want perfect moments to slow down to savour or to speed up terrible moments to avoid the pain. How all these thoughts and feelings are all encompassed in this novel fascinated me and is utterly relatable, but eventually I found myself wanting more. Slow down and enjoy the moments as a theme is a predictable one and one I had hoped Albom would explore further, but when this ultimate theme is revealed, the novel ends and I was left feeling a bit ripped off.
I knew from the epilogue how things wrapped up, but I wanted to see it and feel it. I wished that the novel went further and showed Sarah and Victor when they returned back to their lives. It would have given this novel so much more punch in my opinion. I didn’t care as much for Dor, Father Time, as I did the two mortals, Sarah and Victor, so maybe that’s why. My heart did lift at the end though.
This is a ridiculously quick read, at only 240 pages, many of which have sections that have great gaps in spacing as well as many chapter endings, so it’s probably under 200 with all the spacing. I read this in a day, probably under two hours and because of this, it really made me want more from the ending.  

Thank you to Hyperion for our review copy!  All Opinions are our own. 

Connect with Mitch Albom:


Monday, September 17, 2012

More Like Her by Liza Palmer

Please welcome Lucie Simone, author of two novels, Hollywood Ending and Picture Perfect to kick off our newest feature: an Author Guest Review! Beginning this fall, Novel Escapes will be featuring a guest review from some of our favourite authors! We hope you will enjoy reading what your favourite authors love to read as well as we do! 

First, the synopsis of More Like Her:

What really goes on behind those perfect white picket fences?

In Frances’s mind, beautiful, successful, ecstatically married Emma Dunham is the height of female perfection. Frances, recently dumped with spectacular drama by her boyfriend, aspires to be just like Emma. So do her close friends and fellow teachers, Lisa and Jill. But Lisa’s too career-focused to find time for a family. And Jill’s recent unexpected pregnancy could have devastating consequences for her less-than-perfect marriage. 

Yet sometimes the golden dream you fervently wish for turns out to be not at all what it seems—like Emma’s enviable suburban postcard life, which is about to be brutally cut short by a perfect husband turned killer. And in the shocking aftermath, three devastated friends are going to have to come to terms with their own secrets . . . and somehow learn to move forward after their dream is exposed as a lie. 

 Lucie Simone - Guest Review

Liza Palmer is one of my favorite authors, and I was thrilled when I actually got to meet her in person at the Romance Writers of America Literacy Signing in July, where I bought her latest book, More Like Her. One of the reasons I love Liza’s work is that her writing is just so real. It’s full of naked emotion stripped to the core. She not only delves into the psyches of her characters, but she also taps into those of her readers. You can’t help but get invested in her characters and their stories because some part of them, some aspect of their lives reflects our own struggles, heartaches, loves, and fears.

And More Like Her is no different. In this novel, Liza explores female relationships. The good and the bad. The friendships that keep us afloat and the competitiveness that breaks us down. And the truth that not everything is as it seems. Seen through the eyes of Frannie, Liza reveals the inner workings of female bonding and lays open the secrets that we keep hidden, even from ourselves.

When new Headmistress, Emma, takes over the school where Frannie and her friends Jill and Lisa work, she seems perfect. Too perfect. From her tailored wardrobe to her glamorous, globe-trotting life with her husband, whom she declares to be the next Norman Mailer, she projects an image of flawlessness. And, of course, Frannie and her friends take an immediate dislike to her. Because they aren’t perfect, and they know it. But what they soon realize is that Emma’s life is far from idyllic and that she’s been hiding a very dark and traumatic history. And when her life meets a tragic and very dramatic end, Frannie and her friends are forced to examine the lies and secrets Emma kept hidden behind the façade of her “happily ever after” life.

I found More Like Her to be an utterly absorbing read. I was sucked in from the beginning, and the pace and plotting of the story kept me glued to the pages as Frannie’s story unfolded. This book is very dark and very moving, blended with enough moments of lighthearted humor and romance to keep the reader from sinking into a depression. There’s a bit of a mystery angle as Frannie and her friends explore the reasons behind Emma’s death, which was handled very carefully, keeping the reader in suspense until the end. All in all, a fantastic read!

Thank you Lucie! 

Lucie Simone has a passion for travel, yoga, and writing. She has a degree in Journalism, a Master of Fine Arts in Television Production, and is a certified yoga teacher registered with Yoga Alliance. Her love of comedy (and living under the delusion that she might one day be an actress) resulted in a stint studying improvisation, which, ironically enough, taught her to be a better writer.
Her short story, A Taste of Italy, won the New York Book Festival competition for best ebook and is a bestseller at Amazon UK. The release of her debut novel, Hollywood Ending, a romantic comedy about life in Hollywood for the not-so-rich-and-famous, marked the launch of her small press, Simon & Fig, which publishes Chick Lit, Lad Lit and Women’s Fiction exclusively.
Lucie lives, loves and writes in the City of Angels, but considers New York City her second home and visits as often as her bank account will allow.  

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Connect with Lucie here:

Picture Perfect by Lucie Simone

4 Star

For Lauren Tate, a high-powered TV producer, sex, lies, and scandal make for a great movie-of-the-week, but when she becomes the target of a smear campaign, even the most salacious of Hollywood’s tales can’t compare to her real life drama. With her soon-to-be-ex-husband leading the effort to sully her reputation, and her former assistant threatening to snatch her hard-earned position at Timeless Television out of her hands, Lauren’s perfectly planned life quickly begins to unravel at the seams. 

Clawing her way back to the top of the TV food chain is no easy task, especially in an industry where backstabbing is a sport and gossip is a fulltime business. But Lauren learns just how cutthroat showbiz can truly be when the hottest scandal in Tinsel Town turns deadly and the Hollywood hunk who’s stolen her heart is missing in action. Can she salvage her career, her reputation, and her love life? Or will Hollywood be the death of her? 

Lydia - 4 Star

I really enjoyed Picture Perfect. A novel about finding yourself, figuring out love, and discovering the career you want amidst chaos, Picture Perfect is an easy, enjoyable, and funny read that had me frequently snorting with laughter. 

Lauren Tate is a likeable heroine, even though at times I wanted to shake her and actually wondered how she got to where she was. She is so concerned about the paparazzi at times, but then she does nothing to stop inappropriate things from flying out of her mouth at inopportune times which struck me as odd because Lauren is smart. A bit naïve, yes, but smart. Her situation is anything but normal though and she is able to laugh at herself, so I could forgive her a little easier, but it still niggled at me on a couple of occasions. These situations did, however, make for some very amusing situations that had me laughing out loud.

I didn’t find Picture Perfect at all predictable, which is probably what I loved most about the novel. There were also many twists and turns I wasn't expecting which kept me guessing until the very end, and although I had a hunch, I could never put my finger on who done it. I was also never entirely sure what would happen with Lauren's love life which is always a pleasant surprise. Unfortunately though, I wasn’t entirely convinced about her potential love interest and for some reason found found I couldn't completely believe it. I loved Jack - he was definitely swoon worthy - but there was something about the two of them that I couldn’t grasp. Maybe it was how resistant Lauren was? Or how quickly it all developed. Or maybe its just me and some personal experience on the awkwardness of dating someone ten years my junior getting in my way, but something about them didn’t strike me as entirely realistic.

I did find myself becoming a bit more nit picky in the second half of the novel, noticing things like repetition (which is always an issue for me when I typically read a novel in two to three days and rarely forget little details that others might need reminding about) and even some unnecessary dialogue that I felt the characters would already know. There were also a few other situations that I felt were a little bit of a stretch, but with a little suspension of disbelief and shoving my inner-editor off a cliff, I was still able to really enjoy this novel.

All in all, I found Picture Perfect to be a really fun read and I'm looking forward to see what Lucie Simone has in store for us next!  

Thank you to CLP Blog Tours for our stop on Lucie Simone's blog tour! All opinions are our own.

Connect with Lucie Simone here:

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Marrying up by Wendy Holden

3 Star

Beautiful but broke student Polly and scheming social climber Alexa may have grown up in the same place, but they couldn't be more different. Polly's just fallen for Max, a handsome country vet. But Alexa can't be bothered with love—any guy with a pedigree will do, mind you, as long as he comes with a title, a mansion, and a family tiara.

Alexa wiggles her way into friendship with Florrie, a clueless aristocrat who could support entire countries with her spare change. Suddenly the grandest doors swing open for Alexa, and a new life is so close she can taste it. Polly could care less about Max's money, but his mysterious habit of disappearing scares her. What's he hiding?

Kathryn - 3 Star

Marrying Up starts off with an archeological dig which was exciting because for some reason I like reading about these things (not actually doing them but reading about them is fine) and we’re quickly introduced to Polly and her love interest Max-their relationship seems likely to work out.

A few chapters in we’re quickly moved on to a different sort of novel all together and though I eventually enjoyed what Marrying Up turned out to be I felt as if the start of the novel didn’t at all match what happened next- and although I suppose the site excavation gave us the introduction to our main character it actually had very little to do with the plot and took quite a lot of narrative space for very little end purpose.

My favourite character was Alexa and certainly not because I liked her- she was mean and self-centered, egocentric and disrespectful but she was funny and not the norm- her sidekick was great and they added the uniquely funny (if sometimes a little depressing) quality to the story. 

All in all I just felt like the story was a bit disjointed, all the elements were there to create a fantastic romantic comedy (with a fairy tale castle thrown in for good measure) but it was missing some of the flow to make all the characters connect and I really did find some of the situations so unrealistic that I couldn’t match it with the down to earth (literally) start. 

Marrying Up was fun though and I’ve enjoyed Holden’s novels in the past so I would certainly pick another up in the future- but now I would be prepared for a different type of read. 

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

Connect to Wendy Holden here:

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Sultan's Wife by Jane Johnson

3.5 Star

1677, Morocco. Behind the magnificent walls and towering arches of the Palace of Meknes, captive chieftain's son and now a lowly scribe, Nus Nus is framed for murder. As he attempts to evade punishment for the bloody crime, Nus Nus finds himself trapped in a vicious plot, caught between the three most powerful figures in the court: the cruel and arbitrary sultan, Moulay Ismail, one of the most tyrannical rulers in history; his monstrous wife Zidana, famed for her use of poison and black magic; and the conniving Grand Vizier.

Meanwhile, a young Englishwoman named Alys Swann has been taken prisoner by Barbary corsairs and brought to the court. She faces a simple choice: renounce her faith and join the Sultan's harem; or die. As they battle for survival, Alys and Nus Nus find themselves thrust into an unlikely alliance--an alliance that will become a deep and moving relationship in which these two outsiders will find sustenance and courage in the most perilous of circumstances.

Sabrina-Kate - 3.5 Star

I loved The Sultan's Wife in the very beginning but unfortunately it began to drag on early in. The descriptions in the beginning had me hooked though and I kept hoping that it would get back to that original pull, but it was not to be. Maybe I was just isn't in the mood for this type of book at that time, but I think that it just didn't live up to expectations.

The part that I found interesting was the descriptions of the country and it's history. Morocco is not a country that I know very much about so I found this rich historical insight to be compelling but I'd also like to know if the author researched that aspect or if it was something that she imagined. Although apparently many of the characters are based on real life people so there must have been research involved.

This book wasn't very long but because of the story line that involved a lot of suffering and danger, it seemed to be never ending and became tedious to read at times. Perhaps somewhat unbelievable because I couldn't easily imagine that the story would be possible.

I didn't love The Sultan's Wife but it had a lot about it that I enjoyed. I know that a lot of people did really love it so perhaps it's more for the historical fiction fan, which I realized that though I find the historical aspect interesting, it doesn't thrill me.

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

Connect with Jane Johnson here:

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Blondes by Emily Schultz

5 Star

Hazel Hayes is a grad student living in New York City. As the novel opens, she learns she is pregnant (from an affair with her married professor) at an apocalyptically bad time: random but deadly attacks on passers-by, all by blonde women, are terrorizing New Yorkers. Soon it becomes clear that the attacks are symptoms of a strange illness that is transforming blondes--whether CEOs, flight attendants, skateboarders or accountants--into rabid killers.

Hazel, vulnerable because of her pregnancy, decides to flee the city--but finds that the epidemic has spread and that the world outside New York is even stranger than she imagined. She sets out on a trip across a paralyzed America to find the one woman--perhaps blonde, perhaps not--who might be able to help her. 

Lydia - 5 Star

I loved this novel. With a unique premise – blondes becoming rapid killers (think zombies, but exchange the ugly for beautiful blondes) - and fabulous social commentary (think The Handmaid’s Tale), The Blondes is an absorbing read.

Hazel Hayes is an ordinary girl who moves from Toronto to New York City to finish her thesis on women and vanity when she finds herself pregnant just as the world becomes consumed with hysterical, raging blondes wreaking havoc and attacking people. Anyone living in Toronto during SARS or the Bird Flu scare or anywhere during a potential pandemic will understand the fear, the unknown and the desperation portrayed in this novel. The Blondes takes it a step further by exploring an illness that affects only women, particularly blondes, both natural and bleached, and how the rest of the world, from brunettes to men, react to them, their vanity at having to shave their heads, and the discrimination, the persecution, and the indignities they are treated to.

Told from the point of view of Hazel Hayes, whose pregnancy was unplanned, she gradually tells her unborn baby about how the events unfolded to get them to the cabin they were hunkered down in. Hazel starts her story at the cabin and then would skip back to various points in time from how the infections began, to how she met the baby’s father and moved to New York and other times in her past. However, at no time was I confused or thought this detracted from the story. It was masterfully done. I zipped through pages to see whether she would make it out of the cabin and was equally fascinated by how the infection started, spread and the reaction to it as well as the dysfunctional relationship she had with the baby’s father.

I loved that I learned things with this novel, from Mayer of MGM studio’s hometown in Canada to the genetic facts of how a calico cat is created. And that this novel made me think, from our vanity to the niceties people show pregnant women they would never otherwise glance twice at and the irrationality or compassion people show in the face of the unknown.

I visited New York City recently and with Manhattan firmly imprinted in my mind now, I loved that half of this novel takes place in the streets I recently roamed, and the other half was unabashedly Canadian and depicted areas of the city I live in as well as other Canadian-isms (Tim Horton’s anyone?) that I absolutely loved.

There were pages of The Blondes that I whipped through as well as sections I reread to digest the meaning and subtext. Emily Schultz is definitely one to watch. I can’t wait to read more of her work!

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

Connect with Emily Schultz here:


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