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on January 3, 2011
Originally posted at [...]

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.
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on January 16, 2011
There have not been too many books that I will stop what I'm doing during the day to read. I did though, when I was reading Arranged, and right there will tell you a lot about how I felt about this book. I rarely will read during the day -- with three kids, I never get the chance!

Here's the premise:

Anne Blythe has just broken up with another one of her boyfriends and finds a business card in the street promoting what she thinks is a dating company called, ironically, Blythe & Company. Because of the similarity of the company's name and her last name, she keeps the card and eventually calls this `dating' company only to discover they really arrange marriages. Tired of picking the wrong men, and after deep contemplation, she agrees to be matched for marriage. Soon, Anne is on her way to Mexico to meet, Jack, the man who's the perfect match for her, sight unseen.

Based solely on personality scores and psychology testing, Anne and Jack meet, and what unfolds from here will have you turning pages so quickly you'll want to get to the end, yet you'll also want to prolong your reading enjoyment. Jack and Anne's relationship from their very first meeting is so real, so sparked with tenderness and that first sexual tension that you'll have a difficult time putting ARRANGED down.

McKenzie writes fluid dialogue and beautiful descriptions; you'll wonder if there's really a Blythe & Company in existence already, and if there's not, why isn't there? What a concept! And Jack and Anne's relationship - it's one of those kinds that you'll be rooting for them, crying for them, turning the pages in anxious waiting wondering with oh-my-gosh moments, what could happen next!
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I adored Catherine McKenzie's first book Spin An unexpected day off and my Christmas list done = a perfect time to tuck into my favourite chair with Arranged. (Loved the cover)

Anne Blythe has a pretty good life - a job she likes, great friends and she's just landed a book contract. It's just that she keeps picking the wrong guy, over and over again.

"Have you ever noticed how no story that begins, ' I read his emails' ever finished with, 'I was completely wrong, he wasn't cheating on me'?"

When she picks up a business card that reads Blythe & Company - Arrangements Made, she sees it as a sign. She'll give arranged dating a try. But, it's not's arranged marriages. Why would anyone..?? Why not...??

And so Anne does. I was frantically flipping pages at this point, eager to see who Blythe & Company had chosen for Anne. And the teaser from the back cover had me wondering ..."until Anne learns that Jack and the company that arranged their marriage are not what they seem at all." More frantic page flipping until the book was finished.

What a fun premise for a book. It's a great fairy tale idea - what if someone could help you find 'the one', the perfect match for you? Would you do it? (There's a reading group guide that includes that very question).

I enjoyed the character of Anne -she was an interesting mix of confidence and uncertainty. I also enjoyed the supporting cast, especially Anne's brother Gilbert and his family. Anne's friends Sarah and William also rang true. But I wasn't enamoured with Jack. I just never found him as emotionally attractive as Anne did. There were a number of reasons for this, but I don't want to give the plot away. The ending is of the fairy tale variety, but isn't what I would have predicted or wanted. Arranged was an enjoyable read though - 4/5 for me.

Catherine McKenzie has firmly established herself in the chick lit genre. I'll be watching for her next book.
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on July 9, 2012
If you're one of those readers who constantly picks apart books with "that could never happen", "that's too much of a coincidence" etc etc, then this book is not for you. If, however, you are 'game for anything' and will just go with the flow of a storyline - then you will definitely enjoy the book.

I loved the obscure storyline and how the story unfolded. At the end, I found myself thinking that this would have been a great chick flick - someone turn it into a movie!
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon August 21, 2012
“Arranged” is a romantic and delightful story crafted with subtle humour, a fairy tale whose premise explores the process involved if a third party could help find the perfect match. We follow the experiences and results of one such person as she sets the stage for the rest of her life.

After a string of failed relationships, Anne Blythe is slowly giving up hope in finding a person she can comfortably share the rest of her life with. One day she finds a business card advertising what seems to be a dating service however she soon discovers the company’s expertise is geared towards providing arranged marriages. Discouraged with the results of dating up till now she gives the company a call, it is a pricey service but they have an impressive success rate. Wanting what others seem to have and with her biologic clock ticking she takes a chance and gives it a try. A few months after signing the contract she meets and marries Jack Hammer, a fellow writer and the perfect match…….but will he turn out to be her soul mate?.....

I am not a great fan of this type of novel I find them too mushy but I will make an exception with this one. Curiosity got the best of me, I was hooked when Anne made contact with the agency and was highly captivated by her journey to obtain love and marriage. The plot is sweet, has good dialogue, excellent characterisation and page-turning scenes. The author has made this far-fetched idea plausible and entertaining and has delivered it in a fun and at times in a hilarious fashion.

If you are into women’s fiction and partial to love stories, be warned you will most likely have a hard time putting this one down.
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on March 19, 2012
If you're a fan of Anne of Green Gables (& I mean obsessed, like me) this is a great book! I laughed, was moved & had those truly girly "Oh! That's just perfect!" moments. Anne Shirley Blythe is looking for her Gilbert (not to be confused with her brother named Gil, btw) & the journey she embarks on is a winding & surprising one. I cannot give any of the twists away but this will make even the most sensible & serious holding their breath & hoping against hope that it'll all work out in the end.

There's a nice mention of Amber Sheppard (who was a character in Spin) that I thought was a neat nod to readers of the first book. I'm a sucker for that kind of thing, I suppose. Anne was easy to like & feel for, as was her family. I didn't feel very connected at all to her BFF Sarah but she served her purpose very well in the story. Jack was worth every word & even when his transgression is revealed, I wanted to cheer for him. Even in the confusion & jumble of what's going on, the importance of trust, compatibility & friendship being instrumental in the equation of love is clear to see. Simply put, I found it quite beautiful a testament.

Having read Spin, it was interesting to me to read Arranged & have a much deeper delve into similar territory (a writer clandestinely writing about something highly personal involving people who trust them but are unaware) but in much more depth & from a different perspective. Well done, altogether. It should likely go without saying that I'll be reading the author's next book, Forgotten when it comes out.
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on February 20, 2011
Having previously read Spin by Catherine McKenzie I was thrilled to find she had written another book.
Once I again I was not dissappointed. She writes with warmth, humour and brings her characters to life with ease. The storyline is a delightful twist on modern day marriages, meetings and opportunities
Well worth reading and this is an author with a great future
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on May 23, 2013
This is a light, sweet story - great beach/summer book. Life is crazy, this is a fine escape. I read it in 2 days.
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on March 5, 2011
This book is a great balance between reality and what goes on in our heads when we are alone!!! The characters were very believable, realistic and heart wrenching all rolled into one!! I highly recommend this for any one who wants a well written, funny and touching story about a real life woman!!
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on December 19, 2013
I thought this book had an interesting premise, which is why I decided to buy it. But, unfortunately, I ended up not liking it much. I'm sure others would like it better than I would. It's sweet, a fairly light read, and it tells an interesting story about an arranged marriage. To be honest, I think the reason I didn't like this much is one of the characters. (I don't want to name the character here, just because I don't want to influence how anyone feels about the character before they read the book and form their own opinion on it.) And, because I didn't like that character, I didn't like how the book ended up working out.

So, all in all, this is a book I would recommend to others if I think they might like that particular character more, but it's not a book that I'm likely to read again.
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