Archive | March, 2012

These Girls blog tour – Sarah Pekkanen

29 Mar

Family secrets may shape us all, but it’s the rich, complicated layers of friendship that can save us.

 Cate, Renee, and Abby have come to New York for very different reasons, and in a bustling city of millions, they are linked together through circumstance and chance.

 Cate has just been named the features editor of Gloss, a high-end lifestyle magazine. It’s a professional coup, but her new job comes with more complications than Cate ever anticipated.

 Her roommate Renee will do anything to nab the plum job of beauty editor at Gloss. But snide comments about Renee’s weight send her into an emotional tailspin. Soon she is taking black market diet pills—despite the racing heartbeat and trembling hands that signal she’s heading for real danger.

 Then there’s Abby, whom they take in as a third roommate. Once a joyful graduate student working as a nanny part time, she abruptly fled a seemingly happy life in the D.C. suburbs. No one knows what shattered Abby—or why she left everything she once loved behind.

I seemed to have developed a massive love for women’s fiction when it’s done right. Believable characters who are a nice mixed of good and bad. Plots that not only make sense, but that I can recognize in aspects of my own life. And beautiful writing. I am so happy that These Girls is a mix of everything I love about chick-lit.

I think the thing I loved the most about this book is that each woman, on the outside, seemed to have it all together, but on the inside? Yeah, not so much. But they all assumed that the others were breezing through life. I think that a lot of us are plagued with self-doubt but don’t let on. We put our best face-forward. And really? This isn’t always the best thing to do. It wasn’t until the girls started letting their walls down that a true friendship formed and things actually started being okay.

This is a great book about female friendship. REAL female friendship. It’s messy and uncomfortable and awkward by times. But it’s genuine and true and loving, also. Everything that friendship is when it’s honest. I think a lot of readers will identify with this. I know I did.

I won’t give any of the ending away, but I loved it. LOVED IT. It wasn’t sappy or cheesy or over-done. For me, it was the perfect ending to the book. And if you are a fan of realistic chick-lit that makes you think, I know you’ll love it too.

As part of the blog tour, I was lucky enough to get Sarah to pop by the blog for a little Q & A!

Thanks so much for taking the time out to answer some questions, Sarah! Promises that I won’t make them long or boring. 🙂

Lavender Lines: These Girls is definitely about the bonds that form between women and the friendships that can anchor us. Who are some of the girls in your life that you depend on?
Sarah: I am so lucky to be surrounded by wonderful, nurturing women – in fact, I dedicated These Girls to my family of girlfriends! These days, I’m trying to focus on the relationships in my life that are positive, and dedicate my time and energy to them rather than investing time in friendships that don’t feel as healthy (we all have one or two of those relationships that we can’t quite end, don’t we?) I was reminded recently of how lucky I am when I went out for a glass of wine with two close friends. I was really stressed about multiple deadlines and I ended up leaving early. The next day, one of those friends called to offer me her appointment with a massage therapist, and the other left a tin of homemade berry muffins on my doorstep. I felt so blessed.

LL: Which character was the hardest to write?
S: My three main characters – Cate, Renee, and Abby – came pretty easily, and I think I have qualities in common with each of them. My editor asked me which was my favorite, and I had to admit it was whichever one I was writing at the time! I think I feel the most sympathy for Abby, who suddenly flees a seemingly idyllic life and comes to New York, completely shattered. What happened to her is a mystery that unfolds in the novel.

LL: Do you listen to music while you write?
S: Sometimes – although once I was in a crowded coffee shop and forgot to plug in my headphones all the way. I felt a tap on my shoulder and a guy asked me to turn down the music blaring from my laptop. (Oh, the shame – it was the Bee Gees!)

LL: Coffee or tea?
S: Both! I start the morning with tea and often switch to decaf lattes as the day progresses. I often write in coffee shops (though now I always plug in my earphones) so I feel like I have to buy something – but I’m sensitive to caffeine and can’t have too much or I’ll start pacing instead of writing. So I fake it with a decaf and load on some cinnamon sprinkles and a packet good brown sugar!

LL: What books are you currently reading?
S: I tend to read a lot of galleys – advance copies – of books that aren’t out yet, because publishers send me them to consider for a blurb. So I have a big stack of those on my nightstand, and it’s a lot of fun to glimpse books that I’ll see on the shelves in a few months. I’m also re-reading The Hunger Games because I’m so excited for the movie!

Thanks so much, and I’d love it if any readers would like to friend me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @sarahpekkanen so we can continue chatting!

LL: Thanks again Sarah.
S: My pleasure – thanks for having me!

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Puppy Love – Frauke Scheunemann

21 Mar

Hercules is a dachshund, who was rescued from the animal shelter by the sweet and loving Caroline. Life for this little dog would be perfect if it weren’t for Caroline’s new boyfriend, Thomas. Hercules and his new friend, Mr. Beck — a tomcat and a good judge of human nature — devise a shrewd plot to get rid of Thomas and to find a new companion for Caroline. 

But when things don’t work out with the men that make the dachshund’s short list — no matter how many romantic moonlight strolls he gets her to take with them — it comes down to just one man they both might agree on . . .

Okay, before I start my review I want you all to take a moment and sigh in happy bliss over the uber-cuteness of this book cover. You’ll notice I’ve made it larger than I usually do and there’s a reason for that. Besides my Rowlfie, I think this is the damn cutest Daschund I have ever seen! Look at those eyes! Those ears! *sigh* Okay, now that we’ve all had our fill of adorableness, on to my review.

Puppy Love was one of the sweetest, cutest books I’ve read in a long time. I mean, come on, it’s written from the view point of a PUPPY. How could it not be cute? But while it was cute, it didn’t cross the line to cheesy. It was a nice read and I found myself smiling through most of it.

I loved the idea of Hercules, with the help of Mr. Beck,  trying to find his mistress a mate. And let me tell you, after reading Puppy Love, I find myself taking a much closer look at what my own animals do and I often wonder what there motives are. (While I’m pretty sure most of their action are motivated towards getting people food, you never know.)

Despite the fact that this story is told by Hercules, it was a believable story and had the same tone and feel as some of my favorite chick flicks. I could totally see things going down the way they did and not once did I go “Sheesh, really? I don’t think so!” I was absorbed in the story from the opening sentence and I stay engaged right through until the end.

Puppy Love is a translation, but I never once felt that the wording was awkward, as can sometimes happen with works in translation. I also don’t think that anything was lost. All of the characters were believable and the story flowed nicely. So a big yay! to Shelley Frisch, the translator. She did a beautiful job.

This is just a super cute, fun read. And it made me realize that I need more books like Puppy Love in my life.

Thanks so much to the peeps at House of Anansi for the review copy.

Domestic Violets – Matthew Norman

19 Mar

Tom Violet always thought that by the time he turned thirty-five, he’d have everything going for him. Fame. Fortune. A beautiful wife. A satisfying career as a successful novelist. A happy dog to greet him at the end of the day.

The reality, though, is far different. He’s got a wife, but their problems are bigger than he can even imagine. And he’s written a novel, but the manuscript he’s slaved over for years is currently hidden in his desk drawer while his father, an actual famous writer, just won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. His career, such that it is, involves mind-numbing corporate buzzwords, his pretentious archnemesis Gregory, and a hopeless, completely inappropriate crush on his favorite coworker. Oh . . . and his dog, according to the vet, is suffering from acute anxiety.

Tom’s life is crushing his soul, but he’s decided to do something about it. (Really.)Domestic Violets is the brilliant and beguiling story of a man finally taking control of his own happiness—even if it means making a complete idiot of himself along the way.

So, Domestic Violets had possibly one of the most wonderful opening scenes I have ever read. It was honest and awkward and funny and awkward. Did I mention awkward? Yeah, I won’t tell you what it’s about because I don’t want to spoil it for you, but it was pretty amazing. In an awkward way.

The rest of the book was also filled with wonderfully awkward moment that were just REAL, you know? Cuz my life? Yeah, full of the awkward. Just ask my husband. Or my mom. Or anyone that knows me.  Awkward could be my middle name. So I could identify, maybe not with the exact awkwardness Tom Violet was going through, but the fact that things in his life were somewhat messy.

Tom was such a great character, flaws and all. I loved his voice and the fact that most of the time he came off as funny without being pretentious. Sometimes that’s hard to do, and it’s a nod to Norman’s talent.

Tom’s relationship with all of the secondary characters were essential to the main story and very well fleshed out, but I think it’s his interactions with his arch-nemesis Gregory that I loved the most. I mean, most of us have, at some point, had a Gregory in our lives. And Tom’s reaction to Gregory, what he says and does, well, it’s AWESOME. Most of us only dream of dishing out the miserableness. But Tom? He’s a dick to Gregory and he knows it. Loved it.

I also loved Tom’s dad. He’s such a douche and a drunk and a sleaze but I loved him.

Ah, I loved the whole book. I mean, LOVED it. I was surprised by how much I was drawn into Tom’s life. The story was big and brash and crude and -here comes that word again – awkward. But the writing was gorgeous and the telling was true.

Thank so much to Catherine McKenize for suggesting I give Domestic Violets a go and HarperCollins Canada for the review copy.

When She Woke – Hillary Jordan

15 Mar

In the mid–21st century, a young woman in Texas awakens to a nightmare: her skin has been genetically altered, turned bright red as punishment for the crime of having an abortion.

Inspired by The Scarlet Letter, When She Woke depicts an American dystopia where terrorist attacks, natural disasters and a pandemic causing infertility have swung the country to the far right, and convicted criminals are “chromed” according to the nature of their crime and then released. A stigmatized woman in a hostile and frightening world, Hannah Payne must seek a path northward to safety. Her perilous journey becomes one of self-discovery and transfiguration as she realizes that faith, love and sexuality are not just political. They’re personal.

What an amazing, heartfelt, gorgeous read. When She Woke grabbed me from the beginning and I was a goner. I know this is a retelling of The Scarlet Letter (which I have never read) but it reminded me of Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Not necessarily the actually story, but the tone and the telling, both of which I loved.

I loved watching Hannah grow into her own person, questioning everything that she was raised to believe. It was definitely not a smooth journey to self-discovery, but is it ever? I also enjoyed that every person that she came in contact with, whether good or bad, had an affect on her.

There’s a lot of religion in When She Woke. A lot. And as a very non-religious person, I thought this was going to be a problem for me. But it wasn’t. It was just another aspect of the story that made the book work. (Note: it wasn’t a pushy religious book. But because the right is an EXTREME right, religion factors in big time.)

I had heard great things about When She Woke before I picked it up (Actually my mom bought it for me – she’s totally a book enabler) so I was a bit worried that it might not live up to the hype. But, oh, it did. I have a strong feeling that if I had read this in December it would have made last year’s best of list.

*Side note* I read While She Woke a while back, before all the scary stuff in the States regarding women and reproductive rights hit the fan. I think that if I were to reread it now, I would it find it a much scarier, darker read.

Half-Blood Blues – Esi Edugyan

12 Mar

Paris, 1940. A brilliant jazz musician, Hiero, is arrested by the Nazis and never heard from again. He is twenty years old. He is a German citizen. And he is black.

Fifty years later, his friend and fellow musician, Sid, must relive that unforgettable time, revealing the friendships, love affairs and treacheries that sealed Hiero’s fate. From the smoky bars of pre-war Berlin to the salons of Paris – where the legendary Louis Armstrong makes an appearance – Sid, with his distinctive and rhythmic German-American slang, leads the reader through a fascinating world alive with passion, music and the spirit of resistance.

I think it’s safe to say this was one of the most hyped Canadian novels of 2011. Nominated for basically every big lit awards, it nabbed itself the Giller Prize and became a hit. And while I usually don’t run out and buy a book because it won an award, I did put Half-Blood Blues on my Christmas list and was lucky enough to receive it.

While I really, really enjoyed it, I didn’t fall in love with the writing or the story. But there were elements that I did love.

I LOVED reading about that time period. I don’t read a lot of fiction set in the past, but I really should. The way that Edugyan described what was going on in 1939/1940 was addictive. The political unrest, the clothing, the jazz scene. It was all beautifully written and made me feel like I was right there. I also loved the way she unfolded the story. The pacing was just dead-on.

I did, however, have some issue with another aspect of the writing. The intermingling of the slang with some “literary” and at times flowery (though beautiful) writing felt a bit off to me and sometimes took me out of the story.

I won’t give anything away, but I think Half-Blood Blues has one of my favorite endings of all time. Seriously. Okay, that’s all I’m saying. Oh, and one more thing: this was a great story and despite some issues with the language, I really liked it.