Sunday, April 29, 2012

True Love Way by Nancy Scrofano

3.5 Star

Marlo Spencer relishes all things retro. Old TV shows, classic movies, and even the collectible lunch boxes to go with them. In fact, she’s quite cozy in her Malibu apartment, surrounded by her treasured knick-knacks and vintage memorabilia. It’s her best friend, Nik, who doesn’t get her fascination with all that “old junk,” as he calls it. He especially doesn’t understand why she’s so keen to get back to their hometown of Napa when her high school sweetheart, Josh, suddenly returns after twelve years in Paris and nary a single phone call, eager to reunite with her. So, when Marlo heads up north to wine country to rekindle her relationship with Josh, Nik tags along, claiming he was already planning to visit his sister, Savannah, Marlo’s gal pal. Once they reach Napa, however, dreams of a blissful reunion are shattered as old secrets and past betrayals are revealed, leaving an unsuspecting Marlo to pick up the pieces. Can she forgive and forget, or will true love find a different path to her heart?

Lydia - 3.5 Star

I enjoyed True Love Way which is about being true to yourself, following your heart and finding what is right in your life, whether it is what you expected or not.  Family and friendship holds a huge theme in this light hearted read about pining away for the one that got away and then discovering maybe he wasn’t what you thought or remembered in the first place.
 
The whole friendship dynamic in True Love Way made me nostalgic for Friends and I wanted bury myself under the covers and watch reruns. Marlo has two best friends. Her bestie from childhood, Savannah, lives several hours away from Marlo and has a pre-teen daughter who Marlo helped raise when she was a child.  Savannah’s much older brother, Nik, has become Marlo’s other best friend when they both moved to the same city knowing only each other. Marlo and Nik hang out all the time. Now add Josh, Marlo’s high school sweetheart, who shows up a decade after breaking her heart by moving to Paris without her and whose return turns all their lives upside down.
 
From the outset, I could see how clueless Marlo was that Nik was completely besotted with her (no spoiler – it’s pretty obvious) and I really loved Nik. He was kind, courteous and loved Marlo’s great Aunt Margaret who he always visited along with Marlo and helped her whenever he could.  He was nice. And lovely.  And then there was Josh, who I hated. I wanted to punch him in the face.  And then punch Marlo when she didn’t listen to the little nagging feelings of negativity that kept popping up.
 
I couldn’t understand how Marlo would suddenly run back to an ex-boyfriend. Having never had this inclination myself, I couldn’t really relate to this aspect of the story and how she assumed they would go waltzing down the aisle even though he broke her heart so many years ago.  Marlo and Josh had made a pact during a tender teenage moment and she presumed it was all to work out now that the pact date loomed? What? Just because they made a stupid pact, it negates her previous broken heart? Wouldn’t he just do it all over again?  Did she really want to be his backup plan?  I wanted to shake Marlo and show her what was right in front of her and how much of a jack-ass Josh was. 
 
At the same time I could relate to how she wanted her happy ending so she ignored some signs she probably should have paid more attention to. I think all of us overlook some things in order to get our happy ending, whether it’s things we should ignore or not and eventually I could relax because Marlo slowly started to trust her instincts.
 
There was such a strong focus on relationships in this novel – not just love relationships - and I loved that. Even with a secret revealed that threatens them (which was a bit obvious for my taste), all the friendships and family ties were so strong and I think this was the strength of True Love Way.  I absolutely adored Marlo’s great aunt, Margaret, and that Marlo and Nik had such a lovely relationship with her, visiting, cooking and watching old movies with her. Even Marlo’s relationship with her parents was strong and seemed realistic to me, even though I probably wouldn’t share as much with my family, being a little more private than some. Even Marlo’s relationships with her friends was more like family. These connections are what will stick with me most about True Love Way.
 
One thing that I want to mention is the title and cover. Unfortunately a book is often judged by its cover and I wish it had been stronger to compliment this story which is much stronger than both. I didn't base any part of my review rating on this, but I wanted to mention it because I really don't think they do True Love Way justice and I wish more attention had been given to them.

As this novel wrapped up, twinges of emotion wormed through me which says a lot. Although not entirely original and a bit predictable, I enjoyed Marlo’s path to self-discovery and especially loved the abundance of close relationships in this novel.

Thank you to Simon and Fig for our review copy!

Connect with Nancy Scrofano here:

Friday, April 27, 2012

Escape by Barbara Delinsky

4 Star

Emily Aulenbach is thirty, a lawyer married to a lawyer, working in Manhattan. An idealist, she had once dreamed of representing victims of corporate abuse, but she spends her days in a cubicle talking on the phone with vic­tims of tainted bottled water—and she is on the bottler’s side.

And it isn’t only work. It’s her sister, her friends, even her husband, Tim, with whom she doesn’t connect the way she used to. She doesn’t connect to much in her life, period, with the exception of three things—her computer, her BlackBerry, and her watch.

Acting on impulse, Emily leaves work early one day, goes home, packs her bag, and takes off. Groping toward the future, uncharacteristically following her gut rather than her mind, she heads north toward a New Hampshire town tucked between mountains. She knows this town. During her college years, she spent a watershed summer here. Painful as it is to return, she knows that if she is to right her life, she has to start here.


Kathryn - 4 Star

This story is a bit off beat- at least it was for me- having never really had the urge to walk away from my own life I didn’t really relate to Emily initially.  However Delinsky made Escape come alive with her writing- actually that isn’t even quite right- she made the novel feel natural. I now think that the concept is pretty amazing and I can imagine there are people out there every day who just want to walk away and turn their lives into something else- a very relatable read in that way.

I particularly liked the evolution of Emily’s husband James. At first we’re given a quite typical image of him as a New York lawyer but in the end I really liked his character and was so pleased he was so realistic.  The tug between living the way you want to and living the way you have to (or are expected to) is very strong for most people and I respected his struggle and loved that Delinsky made his evolution so open for the reader.  Emily’s draw to her ex-boyfriend was also realistic but I respected that Delinsky never crossed the line between simple draw and attraction to the next step.

Delinsky also impressed with the insertion of the case Emily falls into –it crossed over into the story without being out of place.

I do have one complaint though- I found the constant reference to the coyotes irritating- I just didn’t get it and they intruded for me on the peace of the novel and my relationship with Emily. I just don’t think they needed to be involved at all and Emily could have found her own mind without them.

I hope this novel’s peace will creep up on any reader and sink into their soul.

Thank you to Random House for our review copy!

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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Forgotten by Catherine McKenzie

4 Star

Emma Tupper is a dedicated lawyer with a bright future. But when she takes a month-long leave of absence to go on an African vacation, she ends up facing unexpected consequences. After she falls ill and spends six months trapped in a remote village thanks to a devastating earthquake, Emma returns home to discover that her friends, boyfriend, and colleagues thought she was dead and that her life has moved on without her.
 
As she struggles to recreate her old life, throwing herself into solving a big case for a client and trying to reclaim her beloved apartment from the handsome photographer who’s taken over her lease, everyone around her thinks she should take the opportunity to change. But is she willing to sacrifice the job, relationships and everything else she worked so hard to build?


Lydia - 4 Star

Spin is a novel about starting over amidst unusual circumstances and illustrates that the impetus for change can come in many ways regardless of whether you want it or are ready for it. Emma’s life is altered forever when she returns home from what was supposed to be a three week trip to Africa – her mother’s last wish before her untimely death - but due to a natural disaster, she unexpectedly ends up remaining for six months. Returning home, Emma discovers everything she had was gone – her apartment, all her belongings, her bank account, even her boyfriend has moved on. Labeled missing and presumed dead, Emma finds that nothing normal remains of her perfect and orderly life. Watching Emma fight and then ultimately accept and adapt to her unexpected circumstances leads to a unique, fast paced and absorbing read.

In typical McKenzie style, the premise of Forgotten is just as unique and original as the storylines of her previous two novels and is one I found incredibly intriguing. To suddenly show up after several months expecting your life to go on as usual when it’s anything but because you’ve been declared to be missing and presumed dead was fascinating. How would I react if that was me? Would I expect everyone and everything to fall back into place, even if I wasn’t aware –as Emma was – that this assumption had occurred? Who could I go stay with? How would I be received? What if I wasn’t fortunate as I am to have friends and family that would take me in? What then? These were just a few questions inspired by reading Forgotten. It really made me think. And I like that.

McKenzie’s main characters usually grow on me over the course of her novels as I initially seem to have a hard time warming up to them. I find they are usually more detached and a bit cooler than other leading ladies I have cheered for in women’s fiction, but this doesn’t mean they are not worth rooting for. They all discover themselves over the course of her novels and Forgotten was no exception, although I found I didn’t enjoy Emma’s character quite as much. She came across as more rigid and dry to me and I didn’t find her internal dialogue and observations nearly as funny as McKenzie’s previous two main characters. I also thought her expectation that everything and everyone would just accept her back into their lives when she stayed away for so long without contact was a little too self-centered, but I suspect my own priorities might have been different. Even though I knew Emma was going through a rough time questioning her life after her mother’s passing, I just couldn’t relate especially with the slow drip of information that was revealed over the course of the novel which made me even more unappreciative of her lack of contact.

The supporting characters in Forgotten were fabulous. I wanted to have Emma’s best friend over to share a bottle of wine and have dinner with her exuberant and loving family. Emma’s love interest made me swoon and her arch enemy made me just as stabby as Emma. They were all fantastic and I only wish I had had the same strong feelings for Emma.

Regardless, I still really enjoyed Forgotten even with a little detachment. I still can’t quite put a finger on exactly why Forgotten didn’t stand out as much as McKenzie’s first two novels, Spin and Arranged, both of which I loved, but it was definitely still worth the read.

Thank you to HarperCollins Canada for our review copy!

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Lilac House by Anita Nair

3 Star

Meera is happily submerged in the role of corporate wife and cookbook writer. Then, one day, her husband fails to come home. Overnight, Meera, disoriented and emotionally fragile, becomes responsible not just for her two children, but also her mother, grandmother and the running of Lilac House, their rambling old family home in Bangalore.

A few streets away, Professor J.A. Krishnamurthy or Jak, cyclone studies expert, has recently returned from Florida, to care for his nineteen-year-old daughter, the victim of a tragic accident. What happened on her holiday in a small beachside village? The police will not help, Smriti’s friends have vanished, and a wall of silence and fear surrounds the incident. But Jak cannot rest until he gets to the truth.

Meera and of Jak's paths intertwine as they uncover the truth about the secrets of their pasts and the promise of the future. The Lilac House is a sweeping story of redemption, forgiveness and second chances. 

Lydia - 3 Star

The Lilac House is a novel about starting over and finding the truth. Initially intrigued, this novel slowly unraveled for me and unfortunately I didn’t end up enjoying it as much as I had hoped.
 
Part of my problem was that The Lilac House wasn’t really written in scenes. It was more like snapshots – sometimes up to three in a page, separated by spaces. Initially this confused and irritated me because I was prepared to have moved on to a new scene only to discover we were still in the same one, it was just another thought or the continuation of the scene or it jumped to a flashback and then back to the scene instead of just a memory inserted into the prose. Once I got used to it (about half way through the book), I got over it, but I don’t know it was completely necessary and deterred from the novel for me. It seemed to be a gimmicky way to create a sense of urgency to the read, as did the really short sentences used for most of the novel, and unfortunately it didn’t really work for me.
 
There was also a lot of jumping around in this novel in addition to the short snapshot scenes which also caused some confusion as we hopped and skipped all over the place from the past to the present to the same scene to another, from Mera’s perspective to Jak’s. I was never clear where I was going to go during the multiple transitions and this aggravated me more than I would have liked as it sometimes took me paragraphs to realize where the next scene landed.
 
There were aspects I appreciated and could relate to such as Mera’s struggles with her failed marriage and her need to move on, her worries about her children, especially her daughter after meeting Jak and Jak’s desire to find out the truth, but I didn’t really like either Mera or Jak’s characters. I didn’t find them really warm or entirely likeable. I felt Mera’s children to be the most real in this novel and had one of the most touching scenes.  The story of Jak’s daughter was intriguing enough to continue reading to watch whether he can uncover the truth.
 
There were some details surrounding Jak and his daughter that I really didn’t appreciate finding them shocking, repulsive and cringe inducing. I’m not going to spoil, but I shudder even writing this and unfortunately it is for this reason that The Lilac House will likely stay with me rather than for the characters or the story itself. Anyone looking for a more literary and heavier read may enjoy though!

Thank you to St. Martin's Press for our review copy!

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Monday, April 23, 2012

One Pink Line by Dina Silver

3.5 Star

Can the love of a lifetime be forever changed by one pink line? Dina Silver’s tender, absorbing novel, One Pink Line, is the warmhearted, wry story of love, loss and family, as seen through the prism of one singular, spirited young couple who find themselves in a predicament that changes the course of their lives, and those closest to them. With heart, humor and compassion, this debut work of women’s fiction is certain to stir anyone who relishes a good laugh, can stand a good cry, and, above all believes in the redemptive power of love.

This unique, contemporary story gives readers a dual perspective. Sydney Shephard, a sweet-tempered, strong-natured college senior is young, in love with an exceptional man, and unexpectedly pregnant. Faced with a child she never planned for, she is forced to relay this news to her neurotic mother, relinquish her youth, and risk losing the love of her life. Then there’s Grace, a daughter, who believed she was a product of this great love, grows to realize her existence is not what she assumed, and is left with profound and puzzling questions about who she really is.

Lydia - 3.5 Star

I’ve read many novels lately surrounding teenage pregnancy and unfortunately fresh in my mind was the last such story which was one of my favourite reads this year so far and was similar in certain respects including the daughter who struggles to comprehend her heritage. Regardless, One Pink Linewas still an entertaining and enjoyable read even overshadowed by such a similar one that I loved as well as the crippling exhaustion I experienced during my recent move during which I attempted to cram this novel in. 

I really loved Ethan’s character, although I wanted him to get angry sometimes and not always be such a good guy. Sydney was a great girl to root for, even when I found her more on the selfish end and I worried throughout the whole novel what would happen to Grace when she found out the truth about her loving family and that her parents weren’t exactly what she thought they were.  Sydney’s parents annoyed me initially but by the end I grew quite fond of them. Some of the scenes with baby Grace were spot on, especially during the block party which were particularly nostalgic for me, reminding me of the ‘meet the baby’ party we held when my niece and all my new cousins were born during the same year. The babies were passed around in a similar fashion and the love and fascination with the tiny creatures was palpable and Silver’s description was perfect.

I do think this novel could have been a little stronger in several respects. There was too much ‘telling’ and not enough showing for my tastes with many ‘and then we did this’ type of scene instead of removing those ‘tags’ and creating actual scenes.  It does state on the back that One Pink Line was inspired by true events, so if this was a retrospective look, I can see how falling into this type of telling might occur, but I think the story might have been stronger without it. I’ve seen this happen before with an autobiographical story in a much worse fashion, so much so that I couldn’t make it through 40 pages of that one, so One Pink Line was definitely much better comparatively and while I didn’t put it down, unfortunately at times it tended to lose me or pop me out of the story.

I also found that there was not much difference between Grace and Sydney’s voices which confused me during many scene changes until I was able to figure out whose story we landed in. I also think I would have liked to have seen scenes told from Sydney’s point of view as an adult with her retrospective look at what occurred as opposed to just having her teenage voice tell her story. It might have broken up the voices slightly as they were so similar and given more maturity and insight as an adult into her teenage decisions and made her character more real as an adult instead of just seeing and hearing from her from Grace’s perspective.

There were also some things that were skipped over which I found confusing - a prime example being how Sydney and Ethan went from heading off to different universities head over heels in love to suddenly not being as serious over the four years they were apart. No explanation was really given and no scenes were dedicated to this, which I found I really missed.  It was glossed over with a brief explanation and I had to reread those three paragraphs and went – Huh?  When did that happen? How did we get here?

Fortunately I was never able to predict how Sydney and Ethan and Grace’s stories would end up and Grace never turned out like I thought she might which was a nice surprise about which I’d like to say more, but no spoilers.  Her torment seemed real as did her desire to learn about her situation.  In trying not to give too much away, I can’t expose more, but I enjoyed reading about the situation and how it affected all involved. 

Overall this was an enjoyable read and I would read another by Dina Silver, especially if it has another adorable cover!

Thank you to Dina Silver for our review copy.  
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Sunday, April 22, 2012

So Damn Lucky by Deborah Coonts

4 Star

Lucky O’Toole—Head of Customer Relations at The Babylon, premier mega-resort on the Vegas Strip—thinks it’s just another night in Las Vegas. But then a magician pulls a disappearing act, right under Lucky’s nose. Is it a stunt? Or something worse?

While Lucky chases leads, someone is trying to put her off the scent. As if this wasn’t enough to ruin her day, Lucky’s relationship with The Big Boss is coming to a head—past hurts can no longer be denied. Of course, she is already on shaky emotional ground: Teddie, her live-in, has been touring with a young and lovely pop star. Paxton Dane, former coworker and would-be suitor, is still circling, hoping to find a chink in the armor of Lucky’s resolve. And then, there’s this French chef, who is proving to be too hot to handle….

Sabrina-Kate - 4 Star

I was not familiar with this series when I picked up So Damn Lucky though I had another one of the Lucky O'Toole books piled up beside my bed. Having never read one of this series before, I wasn't sure what to expect and to be honest, it isn't my usual type of read. But I did really enjoy these adventures, as far fetched as I might have felt them to be. Though I also haven't ever been to Vegas, so perhaps this is what really happens there, after all, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, right?

The thing that struck me the most about the characters in the story were how vivid and utterly unforgettable each and every one of them were. The author definitely put some thought into what type of characters she wanted to include and then developed them into really interesting extremes of certain personas which I really liked.

This book was fast paced and kept throwing new curve balls at every twist. It seemed to have a lot happen in a short period of time but was written in such a way that it all made sense and nothing made me think that I was missing something or that something had been left out.

After having read this book, I'll definitely go back soon and read the other Lucky O'Toole book I have sitting around as I'm curious to see what else our heroine has gotten up to.

Thank you to Forge for our review copy!

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Saturday, April 21, 2012

Misfortune Cookie by Michele Gorman

4 Star

“Following your heart will pay off in the near future”

The fortune cookie had spoken, affirming Hannah’s decision to move to Hong Kong to be with her boyfriend. Ever the optimist, she’s determined to make a success of her move, no matter what anybody says.

Unfortunately, anybody seems to be everybody and her life isn’t going exactly to plan.






Lydia - 4 Star
  
Misfortune Cookie (fantastic title!) is the follow up to Michele Gorman’s hilarious first novel, Single in the City, and it was just as fun to read as the first in the series. Laugh out loud funny in places, cringe inducing in others, Hannah is a likeable, albeit misguided character at times, and I really enjoyed reading about her adventures in Hong Kong.
 
Misfortune Cookie has fantastic descriptions of Hong Kong which has increased my travel bug to head east even more now! In fact, after I finished, I caught an episode of House Hunters International that took place in Asia and I watched the entire episode (I usually skip past episodes unless they involve a beach), even more fascinated after reading about the area through Hannah’s eyes and experiences. The maid’s quarters/laundry room/closet seemed to be aptly described based on my TV viewing and this, along with other descriptions and attention to details showcases Gorman’s research well. She traveled to Hong Kong to experience and report first hand and this definitely shines through. Read about Gorman's personal adventures in Hong Kong here.
 
Hannah’s adventures kept me on my toes as I was never sure which direction this novel was going to take and having read her previous disasters in both love and work, I kept reading expecting the worst. Thankfully Hannah was able to figure herself out some more in Misfortune Cookie and I appreciated that she came across as slightly less ditzy in the sequel than she did in Single in the City. I really liked the ending of this novel. It didn’t wrap up at all how I thought it would, but I think it was appropriate for Hannah and in fact, I’m kind of hoping there’s another novel I can sink my teeth into because I’m not entirely sure we’ve come to the end of her story!
 
Fans of Sex in the City, the Shopaholic series, and Lindsay Kelk’s I Heart Series will appreciate Gorman’s novel and her easy to root for heroine and the hilarious situations she tends to find herself in. Although I don’t think I giggled quite as much with Misfortune Cookie as I did with the Single in the City, it was still amusing and entertaining and I would definitely read more of Hannah’s adventures if Gorman decides to treat us to them, and would read more from her even if it’s not a followup to Hannah’s adventures.
 
Thank you to Michele Gorman for our review copy. All opinions are our own.

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Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott

4.5 Star

Tess, an aspiring seamstress, thinks she's had an incredibly lucky break when she is hired by famous designer Lady Lucile Duff Gordon to be a personal maid on the Titanic's doomed voyage. Once on board, Tess catches the eye of two men, one a roughly-hewn but kind sailor and the other an enigmatic Chicago millionaire. But on the fourth night, disaster strikes.

Amidst the chaos and desperate urging of two very different suitors, Tess is one of the last people allowed on a lifeboat. Tess’s sailor also manages to survive unharmed, witness to Lady Duff Gordon’s questionable actions during the tragedy. Others—including the gallant Midwestern tycoon—are not so lucky.

On dry land, rumors about the survivors begin to circulate, and Lady Duff Gordon quickly becomes the subject of media scorn and later, the hearings on the Titanic. Set against a historical tragedy but told from a completely fresh angle, The Dressmaker is an atmospheric delight filled with all the period's glitz and glamour, all the raw feelings of a national tragedy and all the contradictory emotions of young love.

Kaley - 4.5 Star

The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott was a novel that I could not put down. It grabbed me from the beginning and would not let go.

Everyone knows what happened to the Titanic and will agree that it was a tragedy that didn’t need to happen. I find that since it happened so long ago (in case you haven’t heard, it’s the 100 year anniversary this year) most people think only of the sinking of the ship and not necessarily of the people who would have been on it. Once you add in that human element…it’s a totally different story.  It seems strange to say that I liked the novel so much because it is so painful to read about the night the ship sank. To think that this actually happened and so many people didn’t make it into lifeboats is just so hard. But the fact that I was so invested in the lives of the characters is a mark of a good story.

Even though the story focuses on the aftermath of the sinking of the Titanic, the book is about much more than that. It’s also about Tess trying to find her way in a new country and learning the ways of the world. She’s no longer a na├»ve maid in England. She’s trying to be a confident seamstress in New York. It’s so interesting to read about her emotions as she learns what the world is really like and how to navigate life on her own.

There’s a bit of a love story woven into the novel as well. There’s a romantic triangle between Tess, Jim, a sailor on the Titanic, and Jack, a wealthy American businessman. While this was a side story to the hearings and Tess’s journey, it kept me guessing and wondering who she would end up with. In the end, though, I was happy with how this sweet romance worked out.

I think my favourite part of this novel was Pinky Wade, the female reporter for The New York Times. She was spunky, smart, and interesting. She introduced Tess to a whole other world and showed her that it’s ok to think for yourself and that you don’t always have to rely on someone else. I think the novel was made infinitely better by the addition of this character.

The Dressmaker was an interesting and exciting read for me. It had a great balance of historical facts and personal touches. I’m inspired to do a little more research on the aftermath of the sinking of the Titanic to see how things really happened. Kate Alcott wrote a lovely novel that I think many others will also enjoy.

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

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Friday, April 13, 2012

Secrets of a Shoe Addict by Beth Harbison

2 Star

Tiffany Vanderslice Dreyer never dreamed that she’d find herself up to her eyeballs in credit card debt from one mad moment of a shopping spree. She’s an upstanding wife and mother with the perfect marriage… right? Abbey Walsh never intended anyone to find out about the fact that she’s being blackmailed. As a minister’s wife, her sordid past was supposed to be a secret. Loreen Murphy hadn’t meant to hire a male prostitute in Las Vegas. It was all just a big, stupid, expensive misunderstanding.
 
Secrets of a Shoe Addict is the story of three women who bond together when they find themselves in more than one kind of trouble. It’s the story of how sometimes, you hide a secret side that can get you in—and out of—dire straits. It’s about romance, friendship, kids, revenge, affairs, and most of all a love of all the well-heeled things in life.

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Kathryn - 2 Star

I was disappointed by Secrets of a Shoe Addict- initially it was because the characters’ introductions were confusing and I didn’t get a good feel for any of them and subsequently because I thought that the premise for the story was a good one and that there could have been more made of it.  The women were eventually given definition but there was certainly something lacking in their relationships with each other for most of the novel.

I was confused because you would think from the title that Secrets of a Shoe Addict would involve more than a little bit of silliness and probably quite a lot about shoes. Although I can confirm that there is certainly something about shoes and that there are actually a few out-loud giggles to come from the “shoe addict” and her online dating tales- there isn’t as much frivolity as one would guess from the title and synopsis of the book.

However I did warm to most of the ladies involved and I can see that Harbison had thoughtfully grown their relationships throughout the novel and in the end I enjoyed it for what it was- but I still think that there is more of a story there than the reader was given and it was wrapped up in too much of a hurry.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Bridge of Scarlet Leaves by Kristina McMorris

5 Star

Los Angeles, 1941. Violinist Maddie Kern’s life seemed destined to unfold with the predictable elegance of a Bach concerto. Then she fell in love with Lane Moritomo. Her brother’s best friend, Lane is the handsome, ambitious son of Japanese immigrants. Maddie was prepared for disapproval from their families, but when Pearl Harbor is bombed the day after she and Lane elope, the full force of their decision becomes apparent. In the eyes of a fearful nation, Lane is no longer just an outsider, but an enemy. 

When her husband is interned at a war relocation camp, Maddie follows, sacrificing her Juilliard ambitions. Behind barbed wire, tension simmers and the line between patriot and traitor blurs. As Maddie strives for the hard-won acceptance of her new family, Lane risks everything to prove his allegiance to America, at tremendous cost. 

Kathryn - 5 Star

The Bridge of Scarlet Leaves was truly fantastic but to be truthful I found it difficult to really sink in to at first.  I’m not sure if this was because I was confused by the introduction of the characters or if I just had a hard time connecting them to each other.  It didn’t take long though for me to fall in love with Maddie and Lane and it was only a few chapters in before I desperately wanted for everything to work out for them when everything seemed set up for them to fail.

One thing I found really interesting was the tiny, seemingly insignificant, fact that McMorris didn’t have parental figures for Maddie and her brother to lean- it made the conflict at the start of the novel very easy for anyone to understand.  As their mother had been killed in a car accident and their father had been unable to communicate since her death, TJ was trying to become the father figure and ensure Maddie’s reputation.  Maddie meanwhile was trying to hide that she was dating TJ’s best friend Lane- who also happened to be Japanese-American.  Maddie and TJ pulled away from each other rather than came together and this created a natural rift in their relationship.  This of course led to Lane and TJ also losing their friendship.  Instead of supporting each other they pushed each other away and this led neatly to the rest of the story.

The time period is fascinating to me and I found that I was really hungry for details of the detainment of the Japanese during WWII.  I didn’t really know much about it, except that it happened, and I think the author really intertwined it well with the love story without lessening its importance in history or making it so heavy with detail that we lost sight of Maddie and Lane.  I loved the details given about Lane’s family- his mother, sister and even his father were special to me.

Be warned that a portion of the second half of the Bridge of Scarlet Leaves has some difficult passages to read, so between the joyful moments there were a few things I had to force myself through but McMorris is certainly a talented writer and I enjoyed this novel so much I couldn’t put it down.

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

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Sunday, April 8, 2012

How to Eat a Cupcake by Meg Donohue

4.5 Star

Free-spirited Annie Quintana and sophisticated Julia St. Clair come from two different worlds. Yet, as the daughter of the St. Clairs' housekeeper, Annie grew up in Julia's San Francisco mansion and they forged a bond that only two little girls oblivious to class differences could—until a life-altering betrayal destroyed their friendship.

A decade later, Annie bakes to fill the void left in her heart by her mother's death, and a painful secret jeopardizes Julia's engagement to the man she loves. A chance reunion prompts the unlikely duo to open a cupcakery, but when a mysterious saboteur opens up old wounds, they must finally face the truth about their past or risk losing everything.
Kaley - 4.5 Star

Debut author Meg Donohue has created a story that almost all women will fall in love with. There are cupcakes, estranged childhood friends, a wedding, and some family drama. What’s not to love? I thoroughly enjoyed reading How to Eat a Cupcake.

I really liked that the perspective switched between Annie and Julia. This allowed me to really know how each woman was feeling about their situation. I never felt like I was reading too much about one or that it changed too often. Donohue had the chapters end at a natural point and I had no problem easing into the mindset of the other character at the beginning of the next chapter. I did find that I felt a little more connected to Annie. I’m not sure if that’s because she’s the first character I met or because I just related more to her. That’s not to say I didn’t like Julia, because I did, but I would be inclined to say that this is Annie’s story more than Julia’s.

The title and cover (so cute!) of this novel hint at something light and sweet (both literally and figuratively) but Donohue does a magnificent job of telling a story that has a hint of danger to it without overpowering the main story – two women becoming friends again after a decade of estrangement. I had a sense of foreboding the entire time I was reading this book and it was done in a fantastic way. I knew Donohue would reveal all when the time was right so I was able to sit back and let the story wash over me and that meant enjoying the lighthearted moments as they emerged.

Even with the feeling that there was a terrible secret hidden in the depths of Annie’s and Julia’s pasts, the book was still funny. In fact, it had me giggling after just the first page. Part of that was because Annie was a naturally funny character and she was described as such by other characters multiple times throughout the novel. Take this exchange with Annie and the St. Clairs’ maid on page two:
“Oh,” she said. “You’re here with the cupcakes.”
“That’s right. I’m here with the cupcakes. They brought me as their plus one. I’m a lucky girl!”
So that may only be funny to me, but it made me smile and it immediately made me look forward to the rest of the book.

I highly recommend How to Eat a Cupcake by Meg Donohue. You’ll definitely laugh and you may cry but you’ll be left with a beautifully told story and many characters who will stick with you well after you’ve turned the last page.

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

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