Friday, July 25, 2014

"I Heart New York" by Lindsey Kelk

What does a girl do after discovering her fiancĂ© is sleeping with another woman, disrupting your best friends wedding, and breaking the groom’s hand with the heel of your Louboutin?  Why you run off to another country of course!

Angela Clark has had one heck of a weekend.  And the only thing she can think to do is get out of London and go anywhere else.  In her case, New York City.  She plans to just hide out for a while but it seems the city has something else in mind.  When the concierge at her hotel, Jenny, takes her under her wing, the city comes through big time.  Before she knows it, she’s dating two guys (one investment banker, one indie rock band frontman) and writing all about it in a blog for a major magazine.  

But while her romantic life is easy to put down on paper, it’s not so easy to figure out in real life.  Angela definitely loves New York but is her new life enough to keep her there or will the city get the better of her?

I Heart New York is the first book in the I Heart series by Lindsey Kelk.  This very successful series follows Angela Clark as she travels the world and in the debut book we see her starting her life anew in New York City.

I originally read the 5th book in the series, I Heart London, after thinking it was a standalone novel.  I enjoyed it so much I knew I had to go back and start at the beginning of the series.  Kelk writes a character that lives out the dream of many - getting away from it all and discovering a new city and new you.

The characters in the book are well-written, I absolutely loved Angela, Jenny, and Alex and the secondary characters were well-used rather than cluttering up the book.  The pace of this story is wonderful, always moving and never dragging.  I have never been to New York City but this book made me feel like I was right there with Angela, discovering the city for myself, and enjoying all of the shopping without hurting my credit card.  

This is a chick lit novel.  Yes, everything happens really easy for Angela.  No, this is not really possible for every day people (or anyone for that matter.)  Yes, everything falls neatly into place.  No, there is nothing earth-shattering.  But yes, this is one of those books to whisk you away for a few hours and let your thoughts drift away into “if only” territory.  

The great thing about this series now is there is no wait for the next book to come out, so on to Hollywood!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

"Summer With My Sister" by Lucy Diamond

Sisters Polly and Clare couldn’t be leading more different lives.  Polly is living in London working in the financial industry and has the apartment and closet to match her high-flying job.  Clare is living in their home village of Elderchurch in a small cottage, a single mum with two children and barely making ends meet.  For years, the girls have barely spoken to each other, convinced they have nothing in common and nothing to cement their sisterly bond.  But when Polly’s life suddenly takes a drastic turn, she finds herself with no money and nowhere to turn but home.

Polly doesn’t want anyone to know the real reason she has returned, even when she has to move in with her sister.  With an old flame reappearing for Polly and a busy new career for Clare, the sisters find themselves leaning on each other for the first time in years.  And when they are forced to confront a family secret they both blamed themselves for, they may realize they need each other more than they ever thought they would.

Summer With My Sister by Lucy Diamond is a lovely chick lit novel about two sisters who are worlds apart in every way but must come together to help each other move on in their lives.

I’ll admit, I love a book with a character who has a high-flying, glamourous life in the city but has to head back home to the quaint town they grew up in.  They don’t have to lose their jobs like in this one, but I love the contrast of the two worlds.  That is what drew me to this book, in addition to the fact that I have enjoyed every other book by Lucy Diamond that I have read.

This is a lovely book.  I really enjoyed the contrast between the sisters and their lives, and very quickly found myself in love with both characters.  Even though Polly may come across as unlikeable and her life is not for everyone, it is a fun world to step into through the pages of a book.  

I did feel like the story took a little long to unfold.  I would have liked to spend less time in the setup and more time in the sisters coming together and making changes in their lives.  This left me feeling like it all wrapped up rather quick.  Some people may feel that the book was a little too predictable but sometimes, that’s the kind of read you are looking for.  This is a wonderful summertime read, by the pool, at the beach, or in the garden.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

"Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever?" by Dave Eggers

In an abandoned military base close to the ocean and far from any town, Thomas watches as the man he has kidnapped comes around.  Kev, a NASA astronaut, doesn’t recognize his captor but Thomas has brought him here for a reason.  He didn’t want to resort to chaining him up, but he needs to talk to Kev and this was the only way he could do it.  But as Thomas tries to get the answers he so desperately wants, things spiral out of control.

Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever? is the newest novel by Dave Eggers.  Written entirely in dialogue, the book is an examination of the issues that are plaguing society today.  War, government, sexual abuse, police brutality, and more is covered as Thomas brings more and more people into the fold to figure out where things have gone wrong.

This is a novel where the opinions are all over the map. Some people love it, some are left scratching their heads, and many sit firmly in the middle.  I’m one of those people in the middle.  I actually haven’t read much by Eggers.  Most people I know who have read his work have read everything he has written.  I was absolutely amazed by What is the What but the rest of his books, though they sound incredible to me, seem to sit on my to read list.

What drew me to read this book rather than putting it on a list was the way it is written.  The fact that it is written entirely in dialogue drew me right in.  I was curious to see how well the story could be developed in just this manner.  I think this was the perfect subject matter to use this method.  Thomas is a troubled man, plagued by many of the problems we face in society today.  Unlike most others, he seems to have taken them more to heart and it leaves him doing some pretty terrible things.  

While I think that this book was the perfect subject matter to use such a method, it unfortunately left a lot lacking.  With What is the What I was blown away by the writing, I found myself absorbed in the story.  Here, I was wishing for more interaction, for the people Thomas was talking with to have more to say.  I wanted more emotion but was left with very little of it.  The plot builds and builds but the emotion does not match it.  

Maybe it happened this way for me because I was expecting it to be more plot driven, to be more about the situation itself and about the kidnappings and the people being held hostage.  Rather it’s just one man working through his issues.  Which is a valid book, especially given the nature of his issues.  

At 224 pages, this is not a long book at all.  The dialogue method of writing and very short chapters make this a quick read, one that you can read in just one sitting.  Given that this is a book that will evoke strong reaction and has people divided on how they feel about it, it’s good that it is short.  I think if it were longer, I may not have recommended it.  But because of its length, I’m confident in saying you just have to read this for yourself and see where your feelings fall.  

I received a copy of this book courtesy of Random House of Canada.  The opinions expressed above are my own.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

"One Hundred Proposals" by Holly Martin

Is there really such a thing as a perfect proposal?

Best friends Suzie and Harry run The Perfect Proposal website, helping those in love find the perfect way to pop the question.  Their business is doing well, even if their own love lives are not.  When Harry comes up with a way to take their business into the big leagues however, there may be more drama on the way.

Harry has decided that he will find one hundred different ways to propose to Suzie over one hundred days in a bid to find her perfect proposal.  But all Suzie sees is one hundred days of heartbreak as she secretly holds a love for Harry, something she knows will never be returned.  How does a woman in love handle being asked “will you marry me” when she knows she can’t say yes?

One Hundred Proposals is the newest novel from Holly Martin, writer of The Guestbook.  And just like that novel, this one is absolutely fantastic.

Only one week into the holidays and I already know that this is going to be one of my favourite reads of the summer.  Exotic locations and amped-up romance?  Yes please.  This is the perfect book to whisk you away from real life.  You don’t have to be an ultra-romantic to find pleasure in reading it either.

Both characters are ones that the reader takes to instantly.  I like how Holly makes them well-rounded and spends time on their back stories, developing them as people rather than just focusing on the situations that are happening to them.  I will say though that they are extremely frustrating!  Like many of the people in the book who comment on the blog, I wanted to scream at them through the pages!  But that only makes the book more enjoyable and definitely keeps you turning the page.

The proposals in this book are fantastic, Holly must have had a lot of fun dreaming them up.  I was thrilled to see so much time being spent in Canada, a country that isn’t usually mentioned in chick lit but that Holly was able to show off so spectacularly.  This book takes you around the world as Harry proposes in some of the most breath-taking places and ways.  I’d love to share my favourites, but I think everyone should discover them by reading them.  Of course, the book doesn’t include all one hundred, many days are skipped over (yes, slight twinge of disappointment there.)  But getting caught up in the romance and hoping that Harry and Suzie can come to their senses make this one incredible novel.

Holly Martin has once again written an engaging, lovely, and unique novel. This is a book that will keep you up until the wee hours reading or once again ordering pizza for dinner because you don’t want to put the book down to go and cook for your family (not that I did that.)  Five stars, a fantastic summer read.

I received a copy of this book courtesy of the publisher through Netgalley.  The opinions expressed above are my own.

Friday, July 4, 2014

"All Fall Down" by Jennifer Weiner

Allison Weiss is a hardworking woman - she balances her marriage, demanding daughter, aging parents, and successful website.  On the surface, she has it all, but underneath she is hiding a dark secret.  Unable to keep it all together, to deal with the pressure of work and family, worried her marriage is on the rocks, Allison has turned to painkillers to keep her going.  Originally prescribed them for a back injury, she finds that as her life is increasingly hectic, the pills keep her calm.

But what starts as one or two pills a day turns into a habit that has her ordering thousands of dollars worth of pills online.  She thinks she has everyone fooled but cracks begin to show and she can’t keep it up.  She soon finds herself in the last place she ever thought she’d be: rehab.  But stuck in there with repeat rehabbers, alcoholics and heroin addicts, Allison doesn’t think she belongs there and will do whatever she can to leave.

All Fall Down is the latest novel from Jennifer Weiner and with her trademark style and humour, this book easily fits among her past successes but with a slightly different feel.  The nature of this book is a bit more serious than her past works but I think it was a good turn and is a timely and important subject.

Allison is like many women, juggling a bunch of plates and just barely keeping them in the air.  And as most women in that situation do, she turns to something to alleviate the stress.  Allison, like many others, has turned to prescription drugs.  She knows that what she is doing is wrong and tells herself that she can and will stop but continues on the path, consistently increasing the amount she takes.  

Having not experienced this myself, I can’t comment as to how realistic it is, but I have to say that it seems pretty real to me (though a few scenes stand out as something that only happens in fiction.)  I imagine that this is how many women end up going down this path.  The reader will find themselves appalled at her actions and behaviour but at the same time feel sympathetic.

I think Jennifer Weiner is a fantastic and gifted writer and I don’t think I will find very much disagreement with that.  She writes strong female characters who battle their weaknesses in honest and realistic ways.  Her characters transcend the attachment of “women’s fiction” that has been attached to her writing.  Which is why I read every one of the novels she writes.  I like that she took on this subject matter but the thing that stopped this from being a five star book for me was the writing.

I do think the first half of this book was much stronger than the second half.  The parts where Allison is in rehab didn’t have the same effect on me as the parts about her addiction did.  The rehab parts felt like a quick way of wrapping up a story that took a long time to develop (not that there was anything wrong with that, I like how it all unfolded.)  As well, I wish that there had been more of how this affected her family, especially her husband and daughter.  As she heads to rehab it is obvious that her husband knows of the problem but we don’t get a glimpse of how he actually feels about it.

Jennifer Weiner is one of those authors that to me, even when they aren’t at their best, they’re still worth a read.  Longtime fans of hers will find another good read in this novel.  New readers will find a story that is ripped from suburban households all over the place.  This is a very thought-provoking novel.

I received a copy of this book courtesy of the publisher through Netgalley.  The opinions expressed above are my own.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Month In Review

It's hard to believe that July is already here.  My son is now done his first year of school and heading into French school next year and my daughter is moving on to grade 3.  The time flies!  Now I've got both kids and my husband home for the next two months.  So far I'm excited, though I may be starting my back to school countdown in a few weeks!

June was a difficult month reading-wise.  I would slump then read a bunch in a few days, then slump again.  The start of the World Cup certainly didn't help.  Here is what I read with my GoodReads ratings:

A Proper Family Holiday - Chrissie Manby *****
All Fall Down - Jennifer Weiner ****
Face to Face with Jesus - Samaa Habib ****
Finding Spiritual Whitespace - Bonnie Gray ****
Forty Things to Do Before You're Forty - Alice Ross ****
Women of the Word - Jen Wilkin ****
The Fifth Gospel - Bobby Conway ****
Deathbed Dimes - Naomi Elana Zener ****
Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever - Dave Eggers ***
The Travelling Tea Shop - Belinda Jones ***
The One & Only - Emily Giffin ***

Canadian Book Challenge (1), Diversity on the Shelf (0), TBR Pile (0), Classics Club (0)

What I'm Looking Forward to in July
I have decided that for the summer I will be reading only Chick Lit.  I have been buying and buying and not reading and nothing is nicer than soaking up the sun and hot weather with a good chick lit novel.  So this is what I look forward to reading:

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Happy Canada Day

Today is one of my favourite days of the year - Canada Day!  This year we are celebrating the 147th anniversary of the birth of this wonderful country.  There are so many things I love about being Canadian - poutine, free health care, saying "sorry" when it's someone else's fault, Tim Horton's, Corner Gas, ketchup chips, Rick Mercer...I could go on.  Most importantly I love the diversity of this country that brought my family together.  I couldn't ask for a better place.

To celebrate Canada today, I want to share some of the fantastic literature that our country has to offer.  Here are links to some of the great CanLit I have reviewed that has been released so far in 2014.

The Bear - Claire Cameron
For Today I Am A Boy - Kim Fu
All The Broken Things - Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer
Landing Gear - Kate Pullinger
All My Puny Sorrows - Miriam Toews
The Ever After of Ashwin Rao - Padma Viswanathan
Deathbed Dimes - Naomi Elana Zener

As well, here are reviews of books written by some great Canadians we have sent out into the world.

Falling Backwards - Jann Arden
I Know I Am, But What Are You? - Samantha Bee
Born to Be Brad - Brad Goreski
An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth - Chris Hadfield
Here's the Deal: Don't Touch Me - Howie Mandel
Anchorboy - Jay Onrait