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BookChick (Simcoe, ON Canada)

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The Swimming Pool: A Novel
The Swimming Pool: A Novel
by Holly LeCraw
Edition: Hardcover
3 used & new from CDN$ 23.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, but with some good moments, June 5 2010
Seven years ago Marcella Atkinson, a married mother of one, was ready to give up everything so that she could be with the love of her life, Cecil, a man that she had met while spending time in Cape Cod. The the unthinkable happened: Cecil's wife was murdered and Cecil died soon after.

Years later Marcella is divorced, feels disconnected from her college-aged daughter, and is still struggling with her guilt over the events of long ago. When Toni, her daughter, gets a summer job working for Cecil's daughter, now grown with two children, Marcella knows that it is only a matter of time before her secrets are revealed.

Meanwhile, at their home at the Cape, Cecil's children Jed and Callie try to come to terms with the passing of their parents, which made them orphans at a young age. Callie is happily married, and has recently given birth to a premature baby girl, Grace, but struggles to find love in her heart for this tiny being. She asks Jed to move in with her for the summer, because for some reason she just doesn't trust herself to be alone with her two children while her husband works all week. Jed, now in his late twenties, finds himself directionless in life, unable to form a relationship with a woman and unhappy at work. When searching their family vacation home for sporting gear, he finds a bathing suit, one that he remembers seeing Marcella wearing when he was a child, and it becomes a catalyst for finding out what happened all of those summers ago.

I had read some great reviews of "The Swimming Pool" online, so I checked this one out of my library, but I can't say that it lived up to my expectations. My main gripe was that I couldn't seem to connect to the character of Marcella, who is one of the primary characters in the book. I found that she remained at an arm's length for me throughout the book, perhaps a side-effect of her rather distant personality, yet I found that I couldn't relate to her, and I certainly couldn't get into her head. Am I the only one who found her sexual relationship with Jed slightly creepy? The age difference bothered me a little (she's in her 40's, he's in his late 20's), but really what bothered me is that Marcella had an affair with Cecil (Jed's father), and then years after he dies, she has a sexual relationship with his son. I'm not sure if this was Marcella's way of saying good-bye to Cecil, or if it was just something that she couldn't help, but I truthfully found it weird, almost (but not quite) incestuous.

The part of the story that I thought was really well-done was Callie's battle with post-partum depression. It is really clear in the beginning that Callie's relationship with baby Grace isn't quite right. She's eager to hand her off to the nanny or to Jed, and she hasn't formed any kind of a bond with her. She has flashes of harming her child, but only the baby, and not her older son, Jamie. There's a really fantastic scene towards the end of the novel when we are able to get into Callie's head, to see how this depression is affecting her and her thoughts. LeCraw's portrayal of Callie's struggles was so amazing that I think I would have enjoyed the book far more had it been entirely from Callie's point of view.

Although this book did disappoint me, I did enjoy portions of it, and can certainly understand how the story could have been compelling for some.

The One That I Want: A Novel
The One That I Want: A Novel
by Allison Winn Scotch
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 22.40
24 used & new from CDN$ 0.03

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A compelling read!!, June 3 2010
Tilly Farmer is 32 years old and has it all: she's married to her high school sweetheart, Tyler, she's working as a respected guidance counsellor at the high school that she graduated from, and they are finally trying for a baby. After a rough childhood- her mother passed away and her father battled the demon of alcoholism while Tilly raised her two younger sisters- Tilly feels that she's entitled to some happiness, and to some peace. Everything changes when Tilly wanders into the fortune-telling booth at their town's annual fair and is given the gift of clarity from an old friend, despite the fact that the details of her new gift aren't explained to her.

Suddenly Tilly is having visions of the future, and they aren't pleasant. She sees her father falling off the wagon and getting drunk, she sees her husband packing up a U-Haul despite the fact that she doesn't want to move, and when the visions begin to come true, she feels powerless to stop things.

As Tilly, once again, begins to pick up the pieces of her broken life, she curses the new found clarity that she has, but she also comes to the realization that her life was not as perfect as she once thought that it was. As Tilly tries to control her gift, and her future, she must figure out what it is that she really wants.

"The One That I Want" is a highly enjoyable coming-of-age story. When Tilly was young she lost her mother and had to become a surrogate mother to her two younger sisters, given that her father was in no shape to raise three little girls. The fact that she had to mature so quickly has left Tilly in a suspended state of childhood, determined to cling to the things from her youth despite the fact that she is no longer in high school. She's even made her husband promise to not make her leave their little town, which eventually has made him resent all that he has given up for her. While those around her continue to change and grow, Tilly remains stuck, which is what this book is all about. When you're stuck, how do you become unstuck?

There's a lyrical quality to Winn Scotch's writing, making her book a pleasure to read. In the beginning she effortlessly transplants readers back to their high school days, to the days when possibilities were endless and the future was still unknown, with just a few carefully chosen words. I don't have particularly fond memories of high school, but she even had me longing for the old days!

Despite the fact that "The One That I Want" could be primarily classed as women's fiction, Winn Scotch manages to inject some mystery as well as a touch of the ethereal into her novel, and somehow it just seems to work. I loved this book, which manages to be both serious and fun at the same time, and highly recommend it! I expect that it will make its way into many beach bags this summer, because despite the often serious topics, it will make a fantastic beach read.

Small Change
Small Change
by Sheila Roberts
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 13.51
40 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars A nice, light beach read, May 27 2010
This review is from: Small Change (Paperback)
Rachel, Tiffany, and Jessica all have money problems. Rachel is a divorced mother of two who is losing her temporary teaching job. Her ex-husband and his new girlfriend seem determined to buy their children's love, and Rachel feels the need to keep up with them. Tiffany has filled the hole in her life left by two miscarriages with "stuff", and shopping takes up much of her time. When her husband finds out about her secret credit cards, will he stick around? Jessica has been a stay-at-home mom for years, but her kids are all grown up now and her husband finds himself out of a job. Either Jessica finds something soon, or else they'll have to move to Ohio. These three women, both friends and neighbors, band together and are determined to find ways to save and make more money. The journey won't be easy, but in the end they may learn more about themselves than they thought.

"Small Change" was a fun, fairly entertaining book. I enjoyed the fact that the women in this book aren't perfect, and that they continue to slip up with their spending despite the fact that they are holding one another accountable. The three women are so different, and all have different problems related to money, so it's interesting to read about how they all cope. Roberts' humour shines through and she had me laughing out loud.

The only problem that I had with the book was that, at times, I found the dialogue a little stiff. I've read so many absolutely fantastic books lately that I find myself comparing anything that I read to them, so any stiffness in dialogue or writing bothers me. I also found it a little bothersome that whenever one of the women had a problem, they dealt with it by breaking out the chocolate. Don't ask me why I found that annoying because I've done that myself, but it seemed to me that it was the only way that they dealt with things.

Overall I would recommend this one if you're looking for a light beach read. There are some serious moments in here, but rest assured that there is a happy ending.

Heart of the Matter
Heart of the Matter
by Emily Giffin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 25.59
91 used & new from CDN$ 0.05

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of her best books to date!, May 21 2010
This review is from: Heart of the Matter (Hardcover)
I've loved Emily Giffin's books since I first picked up "Something Borrowed". "Something Blue" quickly became my favourite book of hers, and "Love the One You're With" and "Baby Proof" were good, but not as good as I had hoped. However, "Heart of the Matter" is, in my opinion, her best book to date. The subject matter is not as light as her previous books, but the depth of emotion and the skill with which she writes is incredible.

I'm going to be deliberately vague when describing this book, since the publisher's description is as well. Part of what made this book so compelling was discovering the various details of the plot on my own, and not having someone spoil it for me ahead of time. What I will say is that "Heart of the Matter" is written from the viewpoints of two very different women: Tessa Russo is the mother of two young children and married to a skilled pediatric surgeon. She has recently quit her job so that she can stay at home and focus on being a mom, but her decision has left her with a vague dissatisfaction. Valerie Anderson is a single mother to six-year-old Charlie, as well as an attorney. She's fairly satisfied with her life, but can't shake the feeling that something is missing. One night the lives of these two women intersect, and nothing will be the same for them again.

As I mentioned, "Heart of the Matter" is one of Emily Giffin's best books to date. She conveys such emotion with her words- at parts of the book I literally gasped out loud, finding it almost painful to continue reading the story. I felt as though I was experiencing the things that the characters were; that's how involved I was.

Giffin also takes a difficult situtation, one where there is not a wrong or a right answer, and tries to present two views without ever choosing sides. Women will sympathize with both main characters despite themselves. I had a favourite viewpoint, given the choices I've made in life, but towards the end I felt sympathy for the other character as well. Now that's powerful writing!

It's hard to review a book and remain vague, but I really don't want to give anything away. Giffin takes a story that has been done before and adds a fresh spin to it, resulting in a compelling read that you'll think about even after you've read the last page. In short: I loved it, and highly recommend it to any woman, even those who are not fans of Giffin's previous work. "Heart of the Matter" takes things to a whole new level.

Savor the Moment: Book Three in the Bride Quartet
Savor the Moment: Book Three in the Bride Quartet
by Nora Roberts
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 11.94
104 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It fell flat for me, May 20 2010
Laurel McBane and her three best friends, Parker, Emma, and Mac, run a successful wedding planning business called "Vows". Parker runs the business end of things, Mac does the photography, Emma is in charge of flowers, and Laurel bakes the cakes. It's the height of wedding season when Laurel has a run-in with Del, Parker's brother, whom she has been secretly in love with for years. Suddenly Del sees her as more than one of "his girls", and the dynamic between them changes. Savor the Moment follows the development of the romance between Laurel and Del.

I haven't picked up a Nora Robert's book in ages, despite the fact that she's written numerous #1 Bestsellers. This one, the third in a series of four, caught my attention because I love weddings. Really, who doesn't love weddings? Since my own wedding almost two years ago, I've known what is involved in pulling one off, and I know firsthand what a wonderful day it can be. I couldn't help but be disappointed with this book, though. It fell flat for me, and frankly, I found myself bored while reading it. There was nothing wrong with the writing at all, but the romance between Del and Laurel lacked passion in my opinion. They've known each other forever, and sparks haven't flown, and then suddenly something changes and they're all over eachother. Their connection seemed merely physical to me, as the two spend a lot of time jumping in and out of bed. I kept waiting for them to make some emotional connection, to show some evidence of passion beyond the physical kind, but didn't find any.

The few conflicts in "Savor the Moment" didn't do anything for me either. They were all easily resolved, and since I was hoping for a bridezilla story or two, the lack of them was disappointing as well. Perfection is okay, but it doesn't make for a very interesting story. I haven't read the previous two books in the series, but you don't need to read them in order to understand the third. Anything that has happened in the previous two books is explained well enough in this one that you get the gist of what happened in them.

If you're looking for a light beach read, this book may appeal to you, but if you're looking for something with a little more plot and substance, I suggest skipping this one altogether.

A Corner of Universe
A Corner of Universe
by Rebbie Macintyre
Edition: Hardcover
9 used & new from CDN$ 2.97

4.0 out of 5 stars Women's Fiction With an Edge, May 19 2010
This review is from: A Corner of Universe (Hardcover)
What would you do if your husband values his work above everything, including you? This is the question that Zoe Sterling faces in "A Corner of Universe". At 41, she finally feels like she has it all. Zoe is married to prominent physician with a social conscience, Cal, and is pregnant with their first child. She even has a romantic getaway planned to Bermuda, but two days before they are scheduled to leave, Cal's son from a previous relationship surfaces. Seth is cocky, arrogant, and spoiled, but Cal is so excited to have met him that Zoe puts her own feelings aside and tries to welcome him to the family, even postponing the vacation.

When Cal later accepts a long-term position in Africa to help establish medical clinics, things quickly turn sour. Cal has no interest in bringing Zoe along with him, so Zoe stays home to care for his aging grandmother and her unborn child. Seth refuses to leave her house, despite the fact that his father is no longer in the country, and when his behaviour towards her mentally unstable neighbor turns dangerous, Zoe has no choice but to handle the situation, and she comes to some startling conclusions in the process.

"A Corner of Universe" is women's fiction with an edge. When I first picked it up I was expecting a light read, but was surprised when I found a story of depth and personal discovery instead. The characters in this novel were particularly well-developed. I felt animosity towards both Cal and Seth, too selfish to see beyond themselves. I felt great gentleness towards Hattie, Cal's grandmother and a wise, learned woman. I felt sympathy for Neva, Zoe's next- door neighbor who was deperate for Seth's attention. What I felt the strongest was compassion for Zoe, who is stuck with a selfish husband and pregnant to boot. Rebbie Macintyre has a gift for conveying the emotion of everyday life.

The underlying message in this book in my opinion was, do we let our past decisions define who we are as a person in the present? Zoe and Cal got married on Zoe's mother's deathbed- Zoe's mother was ill for a long time and wished that she could see her daughter marry before she died. Cal and Zoe hadn't been dating long at that point, but they were in love, so when Zoe proposed to Cal, he accepted and they marry. When Cal continues to put his career ahead of Zoe and their unborn child, Zoe wages an internal war with herself. Does she fight for her marriage? Does she allow her own needs to take a backseat to Cal's? Or does she go back on her promise to be with Cal forever and carve out a new life for herself and her child instead? This internal struggle that Zoe faces was the highlight of the story for me- can Zoe forgive herself for her past decisions and move on with her life, or will she be stuck in stasis?

I enjoyed this strong, thoughtful novel. Rebbie Macintyre writes with skill, and despite the fact that things did not turn out as I expected them to, I was satisfied with the conclusion.

Either You're In Or You're In The Way
Either You're In Or You're In The Way
by Logan Miller
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 27.99
30 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars What a ride!, May 13 2010
Logan and Noah Miller are twins on a mission: despite the fact that they have no filmmaking experience, they are determined to direct and act in a movie that they wrote as a tribute to their late father. Their father died in a jail cell after an extended stint of homelessness, and this is how they want to honour his memory. The problem is that they have no equipment, no money, no major stars, and (did I mention this already?) no experience.

What follows is the equivalent of a filmmaking roller-coaster ride, filled with gratifying highs and beyond depressing lows. The brothers manage to secure the Panavision New Filmmaker Grant, which has helped films such as Napolean Dynamite become a reality. They corner Ed Harris at a film festival and somehow manage to get him to agree to read their script. They get Ed Harris on board, they lose Ed Harris, they get him back again. They have no money, but then they find some. As first time directors they must tread carefully so that their crew respects them. They hire. They fire. But ultimately, they get the movie made, and Either You're In or You're In The Way is their story.

My first impression of the book? What a ride! My second impression of the book? These guys must have horseshoes hidden somewhere on their person. Despite the fact that Logan and Noah Miller have no experience in the filmmaking industry and no contacts in Hollywood, they manage to overcome all of the obstacles in their way and eventually do what they set out to do: make their movie, tell their story. I mean, how many people would even consider cornering Academy Award nominated actor Ed Harris, having never met him before, and somehow convince him to star in their movie, and then actually do it? Not many. The fact that their journey is true makes the book all the more readable; these guys just refused to quit.

"Either You're In or You're In The Way" is an uplifting story, and it won't just appeal to movie buffs. Despite the fact that the story of how a low-budget movie gets made is fascinating, the principles of the story can be applied to other professions as well. The book is about more than just how a movie gets made, it's about refusing to give up when the going gets tough, and about following your dreams even when they seem impossible. I can't wait to watch "Touching Home" for myself- after reading what these guys have been through there is no way that I'll miss out on the chance to see the end product.

Rumor Has It: In a town this small, a secret is hard to keep
Rumor Has It: In a town this small, a secret is hard to keep
by Jill Mansell
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 11.66
57 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Smart, sassy chick lt with a British twist, May 12 2010
Tilly Cole's boyfriend Gavin has packed up and left her. Instead of dissolving into a heap on the couch, devouring ice cream and crying her heart out, she doesn't seem to be that upset. Really, the only thing that she's really upset about is that fact that she can no longer afford her apartment without Gavin's contribution. Instead of worrying herself about it, she goes and visits her best friend Erin, who lives in Roxborough and runs an upmarket dress exchange. On a whim Tilly answers a help wanted ad for a "Girl Friday" and meets Max and his spunky daughter Lou. They love her and hire her on the spot. Everything is coming up roses for Tilly- she has a new job, working and living in a nice home, and she's living close to her best friend. That is, until Jack Lucas comes onto the scene. Jack is a great-looking single man with a tragic history, and every woman in Roxborough wants to be with him. According to the rumors, everyone in Roxborough has been with him. Tilly is wildly and unavoidably attracted to him, but she decides that she doesn't want to become just another notch on his bedpost and starts avoiding him at all costs. But can the rumors about Jack really be believed?

Like all of Jill Mansell's other books, I loved this one. The book is a combination of romance and humour, with no shortage of drama and complications. The pace is effortless- this is one of those books that you want to start reading only when you have hours to devote to it, because you won't want to put it down.

I loved the characters in this one, as well as the various storylines. Tilly is perfect as the woman who has lost her boyfriend and, quite frankly, seems happy about it. Max and Lou, her new employers, are a lot of fun. There's one scene in the book where Lou is getting ready to leave for her first school dance and the car breaks down. Lou is absolutely panicked, and you can't help but feel that if she misses this dance it will mean the end of her world as she knows it. Erin, Tilly's best friend, doesn't just blend into Tilly's background but has her own story and dilemmas. And Jack- what can I say about Jack? I swear I started falling for him just a little myself while I was reading this one.

Jill Mansell has written a book that does her genre proud. It's smart, it's funny, and I couldn't put it down!

The Icing on the Cupcake: A Novel
The Icing on the Cupcake: A Novel
by Jennifer Ross
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 12.64
33 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Delicious!, May 7 2010
Southern belle Ansley Waller has it all. A recent college grad, she's engaged to Parish, a man who will ensure her financial security and is gorgeous to boot. Ansley's busy planning her wedding, and mentally naming the children who will no doubt be a product of their union when Parish calls off the wedding and everything falls apart. Determined to leave Dallas with her head held high, Ansley makes contact with her estranged grandmother, Vivian, recently widowed and living in New York. Vivian permits Ansley to come out to stay, but provides her with an ultimatum-get a job within 8 weeks, or return to Dallas.

Ansley comes from a family who bakes when times are tough, so upon her arrival in New York, Ansley begins baking up a storm. While helping to correct some tax problems brought on by Vivian's late husband, and getting adjusted to a New York that is very different from Dallas, will Ansley be able to get a job and retain her dignity?

This was a cute coming-of-age story. The Ansley that we meet at the beginning of the book (over-confident and often mean) is very different from the Ansley that we are left with at the end. Throughout the book Ansley learns that being nasty does not necessarily pay, and that in fact it can have some dire consequences. The sub-plots throughout- Ansley's grandmother Vivian must come to terms with the fact that she abandoned her daughter at a young age, Vivian gets involved in a romance with an unlikely candidate- serve only to enhance the main story. I liked that the ending was not necessarily what I expected it to be. I'm not going to give it away here, but what I thought was going to happen was not what happened, which was a pleasant surprise.

There are recipes for cupcakes throughout the book at the end of every chapter, which will tickle the fancy of anyone who enjoys both reading and baking. These recipes include "Margarita, Hold the Salt", "Green With Envy Cupcakes, Black Bottom Heartache" and more.

"The Icing on the Cupcake" was a fun, light read, and I would recommend this one as a gift for the woman in your life who loves both reading and baking.

On Folly Beach
On Folly Beach
by Karen White
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 12.64
90 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An addictive storyline, May 4 2010
This review is from: On Folly Beach (Paperback)
Emmy Hamilton has just lost the love of her life, Ben, to the war in Afghanistan and is numb to the world. She continues to work at her mother's bookstore, Paige's Pages, in Indiana but she has no desire to move on in a world without Ben. When her mother buys a box of old books from Folly's Finds, a bookstore in Folly Beach, South Carolina, that contains cyptic love notes in some of the book's margins, Emmy is just intrigued enough to move out to Folly Beach and purchase the old bookstore herself, if for no other reason than to solve this old mystery.

When Emmy moves out to Folly Beach she meets Abigail Reynolds and her family. Abigail inherited Folly's Finds from her mother-in-law, Maggie, and may hold some of the keys to this mystery from the past. As Emmy takes over ownership of Folly's Finds she also meets LuLu, Abigail's prickly aunt and Maggie's sister, who makes bottle trees and sells them out of the bookstore's backyard. LuLu becomes uncomfortable and elusive as Emmy continues to uncover more notes in Maggie's old books, and Emmy is even more convinced that there is a mystery to solve.

As Emmy adapts to her new life in Folly Beach and she begins to open herself more to those around her, she must decide if she's willing to let go of her own past and embrace her future.

Despite her backlist of bestsellers, On Folly Beach is the first book I've read by Karen White and I was enchanted from the beginning. White tells two stories in her latest book- the story of Emmy, newly widowded and grieving, and the story of Maggie in 1942, in love with a man who is hiding multiple secrets from her. These parallel narratives, told in alternating chapters, kept me hooked throughout and I couldn't even decide which story I liked better. White also incorporates a mystery into her story, and she reveals the key pieces tantalizingly slowly, so that I was rushing to get to the end to figure it all out.

On Folly Beach did not disappoint; the setting was a beautiful barrier island with a rich history, the characters multi-layered, and the conclusion surprising yet satisfying. Emmy was my favourite character- she was vulnerable and grieving the loss of her husband yet she posessed a fierce determination to uncover the truth that she found in the old books in her bookstore. LuLu was also a great character despite her prickly exterior. Throughout the book she demonstrates that underneath it all she possesses great wisdom and compassion.

Karen White fans will love her latest novel, and those who have not previously read her books (like myself!)will enjoy her skilled writing and addictive storylines.

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