Monday, July 29, 2013

Finding Bliss by Dina Silver

4 Star

Chloe Carlyle has always longed for the perfect family. 

Growing up with an alcoholic single mother, she has seen her share of heartbreak and disappointment, and is striving to build a new legacy for herself. After graduating from college, she takes a job working as a summer girl for the Reeds––a wealthy, accomplished family that personifies her American dream. Her summer takes an unexpected turn when the Reeds’ eldest son Tyler, the star quarterback for Notre Dame, shows up and turns her life upside down.

An ambitious young woman with a wry sense of humor, Chloe never imagined herself as the type to succumb to the looks and charms of the hometown hero, but she falls hard for Tyler, and is devastated when they part ways at the end of the summer. As she heads off to law school, Chloe tries to convince herself this was just a fling, but she can’t quite get over him. It’s not until Tyler contacts her out of the blue late one winter night that everything changes. 

After doing everything in her power to build the perfect life, Chloe soon learns that there are things beyond her control. She must draw on inner reserves of strength as her life takes unpredictable—and sometimes heartbreaking—twists and turns, and she finds herself faced with decisions she never thought she’d have to make.

Sabrina-Kate - 4 Star

I want to say that I loved Finding Bliss from start to finish but I can't say that I did which made me sad. I love Dina's previous works so I was a bit disappointed in my reaction to this book. That being said, I did read it in one evening, which having a small child makes it an actual feat of nature!

If I could skip through the first part of the book, like about the first third or so, and just get the Coles Notes version or one or two chapters instead, then I would have loved it. I just didn't feel like so much time and energy needed to be devoted to such an insignificant part of the story. There was an abundance of detail in the first section of the story, whereas the meat, the dirt, the nitty gritty of the story, what it was all about came afterwards. I just didn't see the point of a lot that happened in the beginning. Well yes, I saw the point, I just didn't see why so much time and effort and detail had to be devoted to it.

The last two thirds of the book I did devour, however. This is where the true story lies. So many heartbreaking and heart-wrenching moments but a lot less detail. But just the right amount. The book really gained momentum and got its stride from the point that Tyler and Chloe began their life together. The story felt more natural from this point forward and I eagerly read on, hoping for, and getting, the ending that I was wanting all along.
I hope that the beginning of the book doesn't distract from what was, in the end, a great story. I almost felt like the beginning and the end were written by two different people or at least in two different time periods. They didn't seem to fit well together in my opinion and the story went from college to three years later in a matter of pages which felt odd considering the short amount of time detailed in the first third of the book.

Aside from a bit of pacing and overzealous amount of detail in the beginning, I did love this book very much. It was, in my mind, a classic example of things turning out right in the end, despite difficult things having happened. The sort of book that makes you cheer for the heroine and rejoice in her finally finding bliss.

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

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Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Wishing Hill: A Novel by Holly Robinson

4.5 Star

What if everything you knew about your life was wrong?

Years ago, Juliet Clark gave up her life in California to follow the man she loved to Mexico and pursue her dream of being an artist. Now her marriage is over, and she’s alone, selling watercolors to tourists on the Puerto Vallarta boardwalk.

When her brother asks her to come home to wintery New England and care for their ailing mother, a flamboyant actress with a storied past, Juliet goes reluctantly. She and her self-absorbed mother have always clashed. Plus, nobody back home knows about her divorce—or the fact that she’s pregnant and her ex-husband is not the father.

Juliet intends to get her mother back on her feet and return to Mexico fast, but nothing goes as planned. Instead she meets a man who makes her question every choice and reawakens her spirit, even as she is being drawn into a long-running feud between her mother and a reclusive neighbor. Little does she know that these relationships hold the key to shocking secrets about her family and herself that have been hiding in plain sight.

Sabrina-Kate - 4.5 Star

The Wishing Hill is exactly the kind of complex but logical type of story that I just adore. I have pondered how to adequately do this book justice as I feel like the synopsis about it definitely did not appeal to me yet the book itself really did. Fortunately, I felt like I didn't want to read it but I was pleasantly surprised so I hope that other readers don't lose out as well.

The story has a lot of things going on which could be a problem but isn't. Everything just makes sense, isn't too drawn out and fits perfectly into the story when it is introduced. I also feel like Robinson did a great job in ending the story too. Lately, I have found quite a few books where I felt like the author was just tired or had no idea how to end things properly and I ended up feeling disappointed. Again, not the case with The Wishing Hill. Everything about it made sense yet was not predictable.

The characters were very realistic and their emotions and reactions were easy to understand and identify with. Again, another example of the author's strength in creating a true to life story. Characters that you feel you know or could know and a story that doesn't seem far fetched or out of reach is exactly why I found The Wishing Hill so appealing and addictive almost. The story had many difficult things in it, but this is of course a fact of life and yet just another reason I felt like I could know the characters.

So all in all, I loved The Wishing Hill as I felt like I could be the main character. The people who angered her, made her happy or sad, the people she depended on and loved, I also felt the same way about.

Thank you to NAL Trade for our review copy. All opinions are our own. 

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Looking for La La by Ellie Campbell

2 Star

In a recent survey 65% of mothers admitted feeling undervalued, over-criticised and constantly tired.

Cathy is no exception. Her dull, uneventful days as a stay at home, mother of two, are radically transformed however with the arrival of a heavily lipsticked postcard addressed to husband, Declan. Who is the mysterious La La? Could Declan really be having an affair? And is Cathy actually being stalked?

Whatever – it will definitely prove riveting gossip for the Tuesday Twice Monthlies, Cathy’s 'Mothers Restaurant Research’ group where scandal flows as recklessly as the wine. But what starts as a light-hearted investigation with best friend Raz, soon turns into something much more sinister.

With a possible murderer on the scene, a sexy admirer igniting long-forgotten sparks, and all her friends hiding secrets, it’s not only Cathy’s marriage that’s in jeopardy. Add in the scheming antics of Declan’s new assistant, the stress of organising the school Save The Toilet’s dance and the stage is set for a dangerous showdown and some very unsettling, possibly deadly, revelations.

Lydia - 2 Star

Having lived with the moniker “La La” for several years now, the title of Looking for La La grabbed me first when the review pitch landed in our inbox. Why exactly am I called La La? Well, my toddling niece couldn’t pronounce Lydia and her attempt resulted in La La. We all thought this was cute and somehow encouraged because I’ve answered to it ever since. I doubt it will ever disappear. Okay, maybe when my niece and nephew are fifteen. Back to the book: So, because of the title, I couldn’t help but want to pick this one up and the first chapter started off well enough with the intriguing letter from La La, but sadly the novel fizzled out for me shortly thereafter.

This story moved along quickly and I had absolutely no clue what would happen in the end and would never have guessed who La La was, so this was great. The only unfortunate part was that I never became completely invested in the characters or the plot, so I never strained myself to figure the mystery out.

I found Looking for La La written in an almost amused, sarcastic voice that was borderline snarky and almost condescending at times. It’s like the main character tried to laugh at herself, but it was a bit too much at times - okay, almost all the time. As a result, I didn't take the main character, Cathy, seriously. Even with her friends, she was a little snide, sometimes sarcastic, and a bit well, unfriendly, I thought. And speaking of her friends, I just couldn’t keep them straight for some reason and I can’t even pinpoint why because they were all different and had something random or quirky going on. Maybe I just wasn’t invested. Or perhaps their interactions just weren’t significant enough for me to solidify names to people and events.

One thing that really irked me was how much Cathy grumbled about her kids. All. The. Time. She never had a redeeming moment with them that was warm and fuzzy which I absolutely needed to see, particularly as she was off running doing silly things much of the time. Actually, seeing the kids more than a handful of times might have given Cathy a more rounded character and kids can always bring a little levity to a situation with the amusing comments they make. As the novel is intended to be humourous, I would have thought interactions with kids would have been a no-brainer.

I didn’t appreciate how Cathy's search for La La took over when it seemed more of a joke and then she keeps going – almost to be spiteful to her husband, but it was really just because she was a bored housewife. Speaking of which, I also didn’t love how she didn’t want to do much else but look for La La, either. I know stay at home mums have one of the toughest jobs, but I didn’t see why she refused to really even consider it. And then she ends up in some absurd situations because she blew the La La thing completely out of proportion. I’m sorry, I just didn’t really get it, and it didn’t seem all that realistic to me. 

Cathy's character is prone to exaggeration and is attention seeking, kind of whiny and pretty self centered. She's not someone I would want to be friends, so this is probably didn't help matters with my enjoyment with this one.

The story did move along quickly but I thought it all got a little silly, to be honest, and the ending zipped by to the point where I had to re-read bits to make sure I understood the secrets revealed and the resolution. The humour in Looking for La La never realized for me – but maybe that’s because I never warmed to the heroine. If I’d really liked her, I might have found the situation much more humourous and enjoyable. 

Thank you to Ellie Campbell for our review copy. All opinions are our own. 

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Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Husband Diet by Nancy Barone

3.5 Star

Erica Cantelli’s life feels more suffocating than a size 4 dress.

On the surface she’s maintaining the image of successful career woman, perfect wife and a doting mother with two wonderful children.

In reality she’s running out of hours in the day; 6 dress sizes bigger than she wants to be; and the only man who shows her any affection is her gay best friend. 

In fact fantasizing about how to kill her increasingly disinterested husband is just about all that keeps Erica sane. That and a whole different type of fantasizing about the incredibly handsome new school principal, Julian Foxham. 

When her husband jokes about trading her in for two size tens, Erica knows something has to change. But is another diet really the answer? Or is getting rid of him the fastest path to happiness? Now if she could only stop thinking about the gorgeous Mr Foxham…

Kathryn - 3.5 Star

The Husband Diet has all the makings of a funny, down to earth book about a disastrous love followed by finding “the one”.  It’s not going to really take you down any unexpected paths but I really enjoyed the novel for a number of reasons.

Firstly, Erica’s husband is a pig and there’s no reason at all to like him. Because this is clear from the get go we’re not messing around trying to see what she saw in him and we’re free to accept her quick transition to dream man Julian without feeling any judgement.  Secondly, Erica’s children are lovely and her relationship with them is sweet and loving- Barone did a wonderful job fitting them into the story and they were charming.  Actually all the personalities in this story were good - they were realistic and fit well in the plot and they were given enough back-story (for the most part) to make us like them.

I have a few little problems with the book though and it did take away from a rave review unfortunately. There were occasionally some leaps between the end of a chapter and the start of the next - the subject matter would change abruptly and I kept looking back to see if I’d skipped a page. I often found the start of the new chapter to be a bit like filler - to keep us up to date on the rest of Erica’s life in a few paragraphs and then get back to the story. While I think that having a back story and other interests is a good idea for your main character you either need to involve that plot line completely or ditch it somewhere along the line - for example towards the middle of the book we’d get occasional snippets about Erica’s day at work which interrupted the flow of the plot for me. And while I loved Erica’s fiery managerial personality at the job it just didn’t flow in the story as I would have liked.

I also found Julian (although sweet and idyllic) to be a bit much on the love-sick, too sweet side and it got a bit much for me, I needed a tiny bit more masculinity and a tiny bit less gooey. That could just be me though!

On the whole though I enjoyed Erica’s fiery persona and thought there was enough interest in her life to make The Husband Diet a good novel, I’d be curious to see what happens to them all next.

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

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Monday, July 22, 2013

Love Me Anyway by Tiffany Hawk

3.5 Star

When twenty-three-year-old Emily Cavenaugh’s marriage to her abusive high school sweetheart ends, she trades in her dull smalltown life for an all-access pass to see the world as a flight attendant. Hoping for a new start, she moves to San Francisco to bunk with six other new flight attendants. Among them is KC Valentine, a free spirit who encourages Emily to shed her mousy ways and start collecting experiences as exciting as her passport stamps. Emily soon follows KC’s advice a little too well, falling in love with an older, married co-worker named Tien, a father to two young girls. But as Emily and Tien become more deeply entangled, KC grows distraught. Neither her friends nor co-workers know the real reason she became a flight attendant: to find her father who abandoned her as a child. As Emily and KC fly from Vegas to Boston, San Francisco to London, Chicago to Delhi, each searching for love and acceptance, they’re torn between passion and moral conviction, freedom and belonging.

Lydia - 3.5 Star

I enjoyed the glimpse inside the lives of stewardesses with Love Me Anyway. The detailed insight into their lives amazed me and I kept reading for these juicy tidbits – and there were many of them! A novel about finding yourself, this book was a bit darker than some of the contemporary women’s fiction I’ve read lately. The women were definitely hard to love, but in the end, the writing itself was fabulous and frequently humourous, despite some characters I had a difficult time relating to. 

Emily and KC are both running from their lives – Emily is running from a controlling, abusive husband who she just left as well as a disapproving father and has issues surrounding a mother absent since she was a small girl. KC is bolting from the reality of her mother’s impossible battle with cancer and is trying to find her father who disappeared when she was a young girl. When the two girls meet at stewardess school, the unlikely pair form a bond – the kind that survives strong lengthy absences. They share a home with several other stewardesses and sometimes see each other only once a month.

These two are a dysfunctional duo. I frequently didn’t feel they were really friends. While they both bring out a little something good in the other I thought that, more often, they brought out the worst. It was all a bit grim for me, to be honest, and I had a hard time relating to both the women themselves – mainly because I didn’t actually like them very much, as well as their relationship.

The ending seemed a bit abrupt and both characters ended up places I wasn’t sure they would without the external shove they received. Although I enjoyed some of the surprises I wasn’t entirely convinced they grew as people. Or if they did, I didn’t really see it. They ended up where they were because of unforeseen circumstances, not because growth was realized during their adventures.

Complete with questionable men, copious amounts of alcohol, and dysfunctional relationships spanning family, friends and, especially, men, Love Me Anyway pokes into the dark shadows where the search for love and acceptance often lurks. 

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

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Oleander Girl by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

3 Star

Orphaned at birth, seventeen-year-old Korobi Roy is the scion of a distinguished Kolkata family and has enjoyed a privileged, sheltered childhood with her adoring grandparents. But she is troubled by the silence that surrounds her parents’ death and clings fiercely to her only inheritance from them: the love note she found hidden in her mother's book of poetry. Korobi dreams of one day finding a love as powerful as her parents', and it seems her wish has come true when she meets the charming Rajat, the only son of a high-profile business family.

But shortly after their engagement, a heart attack kills Korobi's grandfather, revealing serious financial problems and a devastating secret about Korobi's past. Shattered by this discovery and by her grandparents' betrayal, Korobi undertakes a courageous search across post 9/11 America to find her true identity. Her dramatic, often startling journey will, ultimately, thrust her into the most difficult decision of her life.

Jen - 3 Star

I was intrigued right away in the first pages of Oleander Girl by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. I love the rich descriptions of the Indian culture and I have always loved reading about a family’s history. 

Oleander Girl has complex story lines and interesting characters. Her storytelling reminded me of a walk down an elaborately decorated hallway with many windows, doors and portraits on the walls. 

The main character is 18-year-old Karobi who is young,  in love and curious. She’s been raised by her grandparents and is devastated when her grandfather dies. The patriarch of the family, her grandfather, left a hole in the lives of his family members with his passing but he also left many, many questions unanswered. 

Why would he never talk to Karobi about her mother and father? Who is the author of the love poem Karobi found in her late mother’s belongings? These are the questions that start the tailspin of questions in this novel. 

Another layer to the story is that Karobi is engaged to marry Rajat, a wonderful man from a well to do family. My favorite areas in the book are the ones focused on Rajat and Karobi’s relationship. I loved reading about their courtship and the traditionals of a marriage in their culture. 

The story began to unravel a little for me in the middle. There was just too much going on. Rajat helping Karobi’s grandmother, Karobi asking questions about her family’s past and the impending nuptials of the young couple, on top of a storyline involving Rajat’s family became a little hard to follow. 

When Karobi decides to travel to America to find out more about her father, I have to admit I was a little disappointed. I just wanted her to stay so I read more about the Indian traditions with her wedding. The clothes, the ceremonies, the people. The author does such an amazing job writing in beautiful description. 

Her decision to travel to America, post 9-11  as a young, shelter Indian woman is a very courageous one. The answers she seeks about who her father was and why her mother’s legacy was kept so secretive will be hard on Karobi, but like many great coming of age stories, she learns much more than she bargained for about herself, her family and life. I was proud of Karobi, but couldn’t help but ponder over the other road she didn’t take at the end of the book. 

I think Oleander Girl is an interesting novel because of its cultural richness and emotional landscape but did find the involved storylines with sideline characters a struggle to follow. 

Thank you to Free Press  for our review copy. All opinions are our own.

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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Monsoon Memories by Renita D'Silva

5 Star

Exiled from her family in India for more than a decade, Shirin and her husband lead a comfortable but empty life in London.

Memories of her childhood – exotic fragrances, colours, stifling heat and tropical storms – fill Shirin with a familiar and growing ache for the land and the people that she loves.

With the recollections though, come dark clouds of scandal and secrets. Secrets that forced her to flee her old life and keep her from ever returning.

Thousands of miles away, in Bangalore, the daughter of Shirin’s brother discovers a lost, forgotten photograph. One that has escaped the flames.

Determined to solve the mystery of an aunt she never knew, Reena’s efforts will set in place a chain of events that expose the painful trauma of the past and irrevocably change the path of the future.

5 Star

It's no secret that I love books set in India and England, so Monsoon Memories was a definite pleasure to read as it combined the best of both of those worlds. Alternating between past and present and these two countries, D'Silva weaves a tale so rich and complex in detail and history that I found it quite impossible to put the book down. The characters really came to life for me and I grew attached and invested in them and what was going to happen.

The details are rich, vivid and so well described that I truly felt at times that I was there or at least was hearing the story first hand from the main character. The story gripped me and made me gobble it up and long for more. I couldn't turn the pages quickly enough and was racing through the book to find out what would happen even as at the same time, I didn't want it to end.

This was a book with many very powerful moments. It had many heartbreaking moments, many things that were hard to hear about or even imagine though I can understand tradition and desire and all of those things that made the story unfold as it did. There were also definite moments that showed the tenacity and strength that someone can posses within. There were also moments that made me smile in their gentle kindness.

Truly Renita DSilva is a wonderful author who has a natural gift at storytelling that truly impressed and awed me. I can't wait to read something else from her and am also curious where she got her inspiration for this wonderful story. Even the ending was truly done in such a great way that did not disappoint, which is my main complaint with books at times. So from start to finish I loved this book and couldn't recommend it more.

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

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Forever, Interrupted by Taylor Jenkins Reid

5 Star

Elsie Porter is an average twentysomething and yet what happens to her is anything but ordinary. On a rainy New Year’s Day, she heads out to pick up a pizza for one. She isn’t expecting to see anyone else in the shop, much less the adorable and charming Ben Ross. Their chemistry is instant and electric. Ben cannot even wait twenty-four hours before asking to see her again. Within weeks, the two are head over heels in love. By May, they’ve eloped.

Only nine days later, Ben is out riding his bike when he is hit by a truck and killed on impact. Elsie hears the sirens outside her apartment, but by the time she gets downstairs, he has already been whisked off to the emergency room. At the hospital, she must face Susan, the mother-in-law she has never met—and who doesn’t even know Elsie exists.

Lydia - 5 Star

Forever Interrupted resided in my to be read pile for months. I was about to be married when this gem arrived in the mail and I immediately slotted it to the bottom of the pile. I wasn’t ready. And it took me a few months after my wedding day to finally pick it up. It was time. I’d had months to brace myself and I thought I could finally deal. Forever Interrupted is a tough, emotional read, but is absolutely fabulous and worth every word – and the tears they instigate.

There is no faffing about with this novel. We are thrown into the action immediately with Ben’s tragic accident only a few short pages into the book. I was immediately drawn into the world of Elsie and Ben and felt her gut wrenching response from the initial fear wandering the streets, to the denial in the hospital and, finally, the agonizing pain and grief.

Ben and Elsie are adorable in the way new love struck couples are. We see them come together during flashbacks that are mingled in between the heavier moments following Ben’s accident. The levity of these memories and the couple’s newfound, albeit brief, love, is juxtaposed against the tragic conclusion to their relationship. These memories make the story both lighter with their humour and love, yet also magnifies Elsie’s grief.

I loved all the characters. Okay, most of them – Elsie’s parents were a piece of work. But Elsie, Ben, Ben’s mother, and Elsie’s best friend were all great characters. I adored watching the prickly relationship between Elsie and Ben’s mother blossom and turn tender. I absolutely loved this aspect of the story, even more than the flashbacks about Elsie and Ben. How the two women in Ben’s life eventually bond and draw strength from each other is magnificent.

I will admit that Ben did drive me somewhat crazy surrounding why he never informed his mother about his relationship with Elsie. But if that hadn’t happened we wouldn’t have had the wonderful story between the two women.

I thought an interesting take-away from this novel was how presumptuous some people in Elsie’s life were regarding just how much grief she was allowed with such a short relationship. I stopped to think about it a few times. Yes, she hadn’t been together with Ben for years and years, so maybe his absence wasn’t quite the same as losing someone after decades. But then again, when enveloped in the honeymoon stage, as Ben and Elsie were, I couldn’t imagine the love of my life being torn from my life.

The grief portrayed in Forever Interrupted is palpable and heart-wrenching. My heart ached during much of this novel. The grief and anguish portrayed is incredibly realistic. Pick this one up if you’re looking for a fantastic read.

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

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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Stop In The Park by Peggy Panagopoulos Strack

4.5 Star

Michael Stolis, a DC attorney, is frustrated by twelve-hour work days, tightly scheduled weekends, and his family's chaotic habits. He explodes over minor irritations like being stuck in traffic, and his tantrums need to stop. His disillusioned wife, Jamie, is sick of his anger outbursts, and wants him out of her life. Michael longs to reignite the passionate love they once felt for each other. Jamie prefers to spend her time fostering illicit Internet relationships. Michael had simply followed his Greek father's instructions for a successful life, but something went terribly wrong. A lucrative career, a Georgetown brownstone and a BMW coupe didn't deliver happiness as promised.

When his family is about to implode, Michael finds hope through Rufus, an astute retired bus driver he meets over a game of blitz chess in Dupont Circle. Michael is intrigued by Rufus's prescription for fulfillment, but is it too late to change a life, chase a dream, revive a marriage? Michael must decide how much he is prepared to lose if he embarks on a quest so very different from the world he created.

Kathryn - 4.5 Star

I judged this book by the cover and now I’m a tiny bit ashamed of myself because my judgement was way off.  To be fair to Strack’s cover though (having now read the novel) I can see how they were probably drawing on the peace being sought throughout the story- the shafts of light and the greenery is inspirational and much of the novel left me with these same feelings.  Initially though I just thought I was going to be wading through more description than I like…

Although we hear the voices of both the husband and wife throughout A Stop In The Park, the main story I was drawn to was about the husband, Michael, and the personal relationships with his children, wife, boss, and new friend Rufus.  It made me think a lot about my own relationships with my children and husband, it made me tap into something I’ve been hovering around for a while personally. The balance between personal peace and contentment, while taking care of your family financially and physically, is hard to maintain. A Stop In The Park focuses particularly on one parent being out at work and the other being the stay-at-home parent. This continuous balancing act needs to be evaluated and re-evaluated to make sure everyone is getting what they need.  While children are small their needs take over almost every waking moment for all caregivers and there is a real danger of losing oneself and letting relationships slide.  I was reminded of this while reading this book and I thank Strack for that.  I felt she gave great insight into a man’s perspective- Michael had strong role and yet she crafted his worries and insecurities into the plot without him losing his male persona.  Jamie was also well personified- she had realistic problems and some wonderful moments of enlightenment as well as a few moments of madness (which made me laugh!).

The novel is wonderfully written, elegantly insightful and the characters could be your friends, neighbours or yourselves. I was very happy with the ending, was actually pleased for Michael and Jamie as if I knew them. I’m sorry I judged this book the cover but am glad I can always convince myself to give something a shot!

Thank you to Peggy Panagopoulos Strack for our review copy. All opinions are our own. 

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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Cocktail Hour by Tara McTiernan

2.5 Star

What if your friend - someone admired, envied, and fervently sought after by everyone who knew her - was really a dangerous sociopath?

Spring in glamorous uber-rich Fairfield County, Connecticut is a time of beginnings: a new diet for the approaching summer spent out on the yacht, fresh-faced interns being offered up at the office as the seasonal sacrifice to the gods of money, and corporate takeovers galore. Five women in their thirties have a brand-new friendship, too, one that's fed and watered regularly at local hotspots over cocktails. With all of their personal struggles - Lucie's new catering business is foundering due to vicious gossip, Kate's marriage is troubled due to an inability to conceive, Chelsea's series of misses in the romance department have led to frantic desperation, and Sharon's career problems are spinning out of control - the women look forward to a break and a drink and a chance to let their guards down with their friends. And letting their guards down is the last thing they should do in the kind of company they unknowingly keep with the fifth member of their cocktail-clique: Bianca Rossi, a woman who will stop at nothing to have it all.

Kaley - 2.5 Star

Total honesty time: I almost couldn’t finish Cocktail Hour by Tara McTiernan. It’s quite rare for me to really dislike a book, to struggle through it, and to contemplate not finishing it. Cocktail Hour, unfortunately, was one of those novels that I almost couldn’t finish.

The biggest problem I had with this novel was Bianca. I hated her. She was toxic and she made me feel toxic when the novel focused on her story. At first I just thought she was cold, aloof, and bitchy. Nope. She’s completely twisted and evil. Having to read about her and what she was doing to the other women was so incredibly hard and it really took away whatever enjoyment I could have drawn from this novel.

Some of the other characters rubbed me the wrong way, too. I didn’t particularly care for Chelsea or Kate. They were both too na├»ve and trusting, particularly when it came to Bianca. Sharon and Lucie, on the other hand, were much more enjoyable to read about. They had more spunk and, not surprisingly, were less trusting of Bianca. Those two were also key in the final climax of the story and they played a more active role overall.

The ending also irked me. This was one of those stories where everything should have wrapped up nicely because of the craziness that ensues. I thought that was going to be the case but McTiernan throws in a twist at the end that I really wasn’t happy about, mostly because it seemed unjust.

Overall, I really struggled with Cocktail Hour by Tara McTiernan. There were some moments where I enjoyed the friendship between the women and some of their backstories but, for the most part, I was cringing due to crazypants Bianca and worrying about what she was going to do next. It was just a little too intense for me.

Thank you to Tara McTiernan for our review copy. All opinions are our own.

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