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Spin – Catherine McKenzie

8 Feb

Kate’s To-Do List:

Go to rehab
Befriend/spy on “It Girl”
Write killer expose
Land dream job
Piece of cake!

When Kate Sandford lands an interview at her favorite music magazine, The Line, it’s the chance of a lifetime. So Kate goes out to celebrate—and shows up still drunk to the interview the next morning. It’s no surprise that she doesn’t get the job, but her performance has convinced the editors that she’d be perfect for an undercover assignment for their gossip rag. All Kate has to do is follow “It Girl” Amber Sheppard into rehab. If she can get the inside scoop—and complete the thirty-day program—they’ll reconsider her for the position at The Line. Kate takes the assignment, but when real friendships start to develop, she has to decide if what she has to gain is worth the price she’ll have to pay.

So, if you’ve been following my blog for a while, then you know I’ve already given Spin a glowing review when it was first released in Canada two years ago. But see, yesterday was the US launch of Spin (YAY!) so I wanted to reread it to see if I loved it as much as I did the first time. And you know what? I think I might have loved it even more.

There is nothing more satisfying than rereading a book a couple of years after you first read it and discovering that yes, it’s still just as yummy and awesome as it first was.  Because that’s not always the case.  but it definitely was with Spin.

Kate is so f— up that I couldn’t help but lover her. Because despite her many, MANY shortcomings, she had a good heart and I could see this even as she was basically ruining her life.  She was just so damn believable. There were times I just wanted to hug her, but then on the next page I wanted to reach into the book and give her a good shake. I felt invested in her from page one, which is a testament to McKenzie’s writing.

The people that she meets in rehab, even the minor ones, were just as beautifully written as Kate was. I really felt like I was getting to know them as Kate was. And Amber Sheppard could have easily been written as an over the top character. And while she did over the top things, she herself was grounded in the small things that she did and how she acted in certain situations.

There’s some romance in Spin, folks. Yes, romance. If you know me, you probably think that I’m rolling my eyes. Because I am not a fan of romance in books. But, here’s the thing: when it’s done well and it isn’t the main focus of the book, I kinda love it. And I LOVED the romantic elements in Spin. I won’t ruin anything for you, but there were moments that my heart was beating nervously along with Kate’s.

Chick lit, or women’s fiction, sometimes gets a bad rap for being light and fluffy and not great literature. But, like with any genre, when it’s done right and written as beautifully as Spin, then it’s amazing. And who really gives a fig what the genre is? Damn great literature is damn great literature regardless of the label slapped on it. And Spin? It made me sigh with unbelievable happiness when I finished it. And, like a favorite movie, I immediately wanted to start back at the beginning as soon as I finished it. I loved it THAT much.

The Thirteen – Susie Moloney

11 Jan

Haven Woods is suburban heaven, a great place to raise a family. It’s close to the city, quiet, with great schools and its own hospital right up the road. Property values are climbing. The streets are clean, people keep their yards really nicely. It’s fairly pet friendly, though barking dogs are not welcomed. The crime rate is practically non-existent, unless you count the odd human sacrifice, dismemberment, animal attack, demon rape and blood atonement. When Paula Wittmore goes home to Haven Woods to care for a suddenly ailing mother, she brings her daughter and a pile of emotional baggage. She also brings the last chance for twelve of her mother’s closest frenemies, who like to keep their numbers at thirteen. And her daughter, young, innocent, is a worthy gift to the darkness.

A circle of friends will support you through bad times. A circle of witches can drag you through hell.

Ah, what a delish read!

The Thirteen is the perfect combination of mystery, horror, paranormal and chick-lit. I mean, this book was kinda like Desperate Housewives on some major  ‘shrooms.  It was fast-paced and juicy and scary and full of Holy shit moments. And it wasn’t a deep book, which is a good thing as far as I’m concerned. This is the kind of book that you can get 100% wrapped up in, enjoying it simply for what it is: a Hell of a good read.

The whole time I was reading The Thirteen, I was picturing it as a movie. Moloney’s writing really made everything very vivid and the scenes just popped off the pages. The writing was witty and campy and there was just enough ew factor to make me happy. And I loved the whole everything is not what it seems angle. Kinda makes you look at your own neighbors a bit closer. 😀

Thanks to the folks at Random House Canada for the review copy.

Smokin’ Seventeen – Janet Evanovich

21 Sep

I love Stephanie Plum. I really do. She’s one of my favorite literary characters and the inspiration for the heroine of my YA urban fantasy series.  She just so much FUN! Seriously. I love her to death. And the whole love triangle with her, Morelli and Ranger? While I usually gag at the mere hint of a love triangle, this one has grown on me. It may be the fact that seventeen books in I still have no idea who she’s going to choose (although I’ve recently declared myself teamRanger).

Smokin’ Seventeen has what I’ve come to love and expect from a Stephanie Plum book: crazy skips, cars being destroyed, outrgareuous outfits on Lula, laugh out loud funny shit from Grandma Mazure and a lot of junk food (seriously, healthy eating while reading one of these books is near impossible. I wanted donuts and fried chicken the whole freaking time. Oh and upside down pineapple cake, whatever the hell THAT is). With all that wacky goodness, you’d think I’d LOVE this book right? Well, there was just one teeny, tiny problem.

See, there’s always a larger mystery in these books. And I NEVER figure out what’s going on or who the bad guy is. Except in this case I knew from the get-go and that was disappointing to me. And for the first time in seventeen books I thought Stephanie was pretty dumb.

So, yeah, I didn’t love Smokin’ Seventeen, but I sure liked it a lot. And I know I will continue reading these books until Evanovich runs out of numbers.

Virtual chocolate donuts with sprinkles to the fine folks at Random House Canada for the review copy.

Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares

28 Jun

Publisher:Random House Canada
Released: June 14th, 2011
Genre: adult fiction
Review copy from publisher.

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Ann Brashares comes the welcome return of the characters whose friendship became a touchstone for a generation. Now Tibby, Lena, Carmen, and Bridget have grown up, starting their lives on their own. And though the jeans they shared are long gone, the sisterhood is everlasting.

Despite having jobs and men that they love, each knows that something is missing: the closeness that once sustained them. Carmen is a successful actress in New York, engaged to be married, but misses her friends. Lena finds solace in her art, teaching in Rhode Island, but still thinks of Kostos and the road she didn’t take. Bridget lives with her longtime boyfriend, Eric, in San Francisco, and though a part of her wants to settle down, a bigger part can’t seem to shed her old restlessness.

Then Tibby reaches out to bridge the distance, sending the others plane tickets for a reunion that they all breathlessly await. And indeed, it will change their lives forever—but in ways that none of them could ever have expected.

As moving and life-changing as an encounter with long-lost best friends,Sisterhood Everlasting is a powerful story about growing up, losing your way, and finding the courage to create a new one.

From Random House Canada website

Okay, so this is going to be a bit of a weird review. Why? Because I can’t really talk about ANYTHING in this book without giving plot points away. And I won’t do that to you guys. So I’m going to try to talk about the book without actually talking about the book, kk? Should make for interesting times.

I LOVED the first four books in this series. So much that I read them all in three days. I loved Tibby, Lena, Carmen and Bee like they were my own friends. I loved getting to be a part of their lives and watching them grow up.  They’re the type of characters that I was dying to read more about, so I was super excited (read:screaming and jumping up and down) when I head that Brashares was coming out with another sisterhood book filling us in on their lives 10 years later.

I liked this book. And I didn’t like this book.  I know, I know, really helpful, right? I loved catching up with the girls again, but Brashares does some things that I just didn’t like. But I can’t tell you. Cuz then I’d ruin the book for you. Because of this love/hate relationship I had with the book, it was a bit of a difficult read, even though I devoured it in an afternoon. I kept flipping back between being in awe of where Brashares was taking the girls and being pissed off with where she was taking the girls.

I also felt that the ending was a bit over-the-top, melodramatic and tied together too neatly. All things I normally HATE. But for some reason it worked in Sisterhood Everlasting. I liked where things ended up (for the most part). And I wanted to read more. I want to know what happens in a year. Five years. Ten years. I think, no  matter how many sisterhood books there are, I will always want to know more.

The Wedding Writer by Susan Schneider Blog tour

16 Jun

Publisher: St Martin’s Press
Released: June 7th, 2011
Genre: Chick-lit
Review copy for the blog tour

Four talented women, one glossy wedding magazine: life should be as perfect as a bridal catwalk… right?

Lucky Quinn writes up weddings for one of the hottest bridal magazines. And it wasn’t easy to get there. From humble beginnings, she outsmarted her way into the center of New York’s glamorous magazine industry – making up for her background with a sharp mind, whip-thin physique, and ceaseless ambition.

Then, in one day, her life is utterly transformed; two of the magazine’s major competitors fold, and Lucky is named Editor-in-Chief, replacing the formidable, but aging Grace Ralston, who had been at the magazine’s helm from day one. Grace taught Lucky everything she knows, but now it seems that she taught her too well…

As the ripples of Lucky’s promotion spread, the intricate lives of four women begin to unfold. Felice, Your Wedding’s elegant and unshakeable Art Director is now being shaken for the first time by troubles at home. Sara, the Fashion Director, is famed for her eagle eye for fashion trends and exquisite hair. But, for all her know-how, “the Angel of Bridal” has never come close to starring in a wedding herself – she’s picked the dress, but where’s the groom? Grace, recovering in the wake of her sudden, humiliating fall from power, must learn to accept herself – and love – after a life dedicated to fulfilling other women’s dreams. And, through it all, Lucky begins to discover just how lonely the top really is.

From St. Martin`s Press website.

So, as you may have noticed, I don’t review a lot of chick-lit on the blog. Unlike some folks who think they are “above” the genre, I just don’t have a lot that cross my path. And I’m not big on romance. So I guess what I’m saying is while it’s normally not my cup of tea, sometimes it is (Clear as mud, yes?). The point is when I review a book that is considered chick-lit assume that it’s a bit different from the norm. Kinda like the reviewer. 🙂

The Wedding Writer wasn’t what I was expecting AT ALL. While I had been expecting a pretty light-hearted-us-girls-gotta-stick-together sorta read what I got was perhaps one of the most realistic look at women’s friendship that I’ve seen in a while.

This was not a touchy feely we’re the best of friends story, no. This was a book about four women who on the inside were much, much different that what they were showing on the outside. Everyone thought that the other had it all together while their individual realities were much closer than they thought. I wanted to get them all together, open a couple of bottle of wine and GET THEM TALKING. Sure, they talked to each other in the book, but it was always through an “I’m strong and everything’s fine” brave face. It was heartbreaking and the cause of so much strife between the women. It was also unbelievably realistic. I mean, we all do it, don’t we? Think that everyone else has their shit together but us? Well, I do anyway, which is why I think this book struck a cord with me.

I loved the fact that Schneider didn’t make one of the women more sympathetic than the others. They all had their good and their bad moments. It was also interesting to get a peak into the bridal magazine industry. For all its apparent glamour and sparkle, it’s really a dog eat dog world.

If you like your chick-lit realistic the The Wedding Writing should be just the thing for you.

Author’s website: http://www.susanschneiderauthor.com/

Review: Arranged by Catherine McKenzie

3 Jan

Publisher: HarperCollins Canada
Released: January 3th, 2011
Genre: Chick-lit, general fiction
Review copy from publisher

Anne Blythe is lucky. She’s got a brand new book contract, a great newspaper job and a steadfast best friend, and she can land just about any man she sets her sights on — and the ones that appeal are typically tall, dark and handsome.

Problem is, the men she chooses never last. Shortly after yet another relationship goes down in flames, Anne comes across a card for what she believes is a dating service, and pockets it just in case. If she’s so unlucky in love, maybe she could use a little assistance. Then her best friend announces she’s engaged, and envy gets the better of Anne. Now’s the time, she decides, to give the service a try — and she is shocked to discover that what the company specializes in are exclusive, and pricey, arranged marriages. After learning of the company’s success rate, however, she overcomes her reluctance and signs on. After all, arranged marriages are the norm for millions of women around the world, and she’s not done so well selecting a mate on her own. So why not use a professional service that claims it can produce the perfect match?

Some time later, Anne is travelling to a Mexican resort, where in one short weekend she will meet and marry Jack, the man they have chosen for her. And against all odds, it seems to be working out, until Anne learns that Jack and the company who arranged their marriage are not what they seem at all.

From HarperCollins Canada website.

 

So yesterday Catherine McKenzie’s first book, Spin, made it on my list of favorite reads for 2010. I know we’re only three days into 2011 but I can tell you that Arranged will make it on my best of 2011 list. I loved it that much. I stayed up until 3 am to finished it and immediately wanted to reread it again. Arranged may seem on the surface like a light “chick lit” read, but underneath it’s about more serious issues like loneliness, stability and trust. And it’s a book that I know will stick with me for a long time.

Anne Blythe isn’t always the most likable character in the world. She has a certain “type” of guy she’s into and she’s, well, kinda shallow when it comes to looks. For the first part of the book I spent a lot of time wanting to smack her upside the head. I mean, quit complaining that you can’t find a decent guy when you only go for men who have movie star looks. Honestly. But as the book went on, and McKenzie let me slowly see deeper into Anne’s psyche I felt a connection to the character that I rarely feel when reading. I think a lot of women are going to see aspects of themselves in Anne. I know I did.

Okay, here’s a bit of background on moi. You need to know it so that you can understand how fully and completely connected I felt with Anne by the time I got about half way through the book, and why I became so entrenched in her story and her happiness. The hubs and I met in a bit of an unconventional way: I answered his personal online ad . I was sick and tired of the dating game and wanted to meet someone I knew I’d be compatible with. I also wanted to avoid that awkward does-he-like-me-like-me stage when you first meet someone of the opposite sex. Since I was answering a personal ad, all I had to do was meet the guy, see if we clicked, and if we didn’t, so be it. Sure it’s not as serious of a commitment as an arranged marriage, but I could still identify with everything Anne was feeling pre and post wedding. For me the connection was at times painful, and some of the things Anne goes through broke my heart so bad that I had to set the book down for a bit and gather myself.

As an Island girl, I got a kick out of all the Anne of Green Gables reference. I mean, there’s no one on PEI who doesn’t have some kind of a connection to Anne. Most of us have the seen the musical. And, if like me, you’ve ever worked as an usher at The Confederation Center of the Arts, then you’ve seen the musical enough times to know it off by heart 15 years later.

The author’s writing was once again great. McKenzie has a straight-forward writing style that lends itself perfectly to the story. She has the amazing ability to handle some tough issues in a light way without being condescending, rude or awkward about it. In her books it seems effortless but I know that it must be hard to maintain that balance.

Arranged was way more romancy than Spin and -gasp- there may even be a bit of a sex scene it in, something that would normally turn the extremely prudish me off from finishing the book. But I felt such a strong connection to Anne and was so tied up in the plot and the writing was so great that I didn’t give a hoot. I loved the book despite the fact that it had elements in it that I normally don’t love. And that, my friends, is the sign of excellent writing, an amazing plot and stand out characters. All of which Arranged has.

Still not convinced this is a must read book? Browse inside Arranged and see for yourself.

Oh, and pop back to the blog because in the next week or so I’ll be hosting a Q & A with Catherine and giving away a copy of Arranged, thanks to HarperCollins Canada and The Savvy Reader.

 

Review: The Truth about Delilah Blue by Tish Cohen

12 Jul

HarperCollins Canada, 2010

Delilah Blue Lovett has always been a bit of an outsider, ever since her father moved her from Toronto to L.A. when she was eight, claiming Delilah’s mother no longer wanted to be part of their family. Twenty now and broke, but determined to be an artist like her errant mom, Delilah attends art class for free — by modeling nude at the front of the room, a decision that lifts the veil from her once insular world.

While Delilah struggles to find her talent, her father, her only real companion, is beginning to exhibit telltale signs of early-onset Alzheimer’s. And her mother, who Delilah always assumed had selfishly abandoned them, is about to reappear with a young daughter in tow . . . and a secret that will change everything. Delilah no longer knows which parent to trust — the only one she can really rely on is the most broken person of all: herself.

From HarperCollins Canada Website.

I don’t often watch book trailers. The odd time I’ll check one out, but on a whole I tend to shy away from them. It’s not that they’re horrible or anything,  I just don’t watch them. But for some reason when the trailer for The Truth about Delilah Blue came out I figured I’d give it a look.  I loved it. And based solely on the trailer I decided to read the book.

I had never read anything by Cohen before so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had heard her novels described as chick lit, but really, The Truth about Delilah Blue was so much more than that. It’s about love, and family and all the craziness that comes with it.

And when I say craziness, I mean craziness. And that’s what I loved about this book; all the characters were believably flawed and just a teeny bit crazy. This not only made for an enjoyable story, but it added a depth that made Delilah’s tale more believable.  There is nothing worse than a book where everyone is perfect. Or, where every character is painted in black or white, good or bad.

The characters in this novel were a great combination of good and bad; basically they were human. They did what they did because they honestly believed they were doing good, whether this was the case or not. Because of this “grayness” so to speak, I found myself constantly wondering what I would do in each character’s place. It’s not often that a book really makes me think this way and it really helped me to connect with the story.

There were some really, really funny parts and parts where I was cringing with embarrassment for Delilah. She was just such a great character that once the book was finished, I was sad that I wouldn’t get to see her journey continue.

Cohen’s writing style is both accessible and expansive at the same time. Her prose flows and is beautifully descriptive, but never once did I feel that I was getting lost in the floweriness of it, if that makes any sense.

If you are look for a great, smart chick lit book, this is definitely one to pick up. And if you are looking for a book with complex characters, a killer plot and writing that will appeal to your senses, this is the book for you.

Check back tomorrow where Tish Cohen herself lets us in on what she thinks makes a good read.

Browse inside The Truth about Delilah Blue.

Thanks to HarperCollins Canada for sending this little piece of delightful craziness my way.