Category Archives: Book Reviews

#bookoutureXmas Kickoff! Difficult husbands – Mary de Laszlo {excerpt}

Difficult-Husbands-Mary-de-Laszlo-570px bookoutureHere in Canada we’ve just had a stunning election, Thanksgiving is over and now we’re in limbo leading up to Halloween. What a great time to celebrate…Christmas! Ditch the pumpkin spice lattes and heat up some mulled apple cider to get in the mood for #BookoutureXmas week! How awesome is that?!? This feature is hosted by ThisChickReads and Bookouture Publishing. I am so excited to be a part of this event – Christmas and Britlit – two of my favourite things!
When I first started reading chicklit books SO long ago, I started with British chicklit. This was before the ‘Shopaholic’ series was published and Chapters employees would say “chickWHAT” when I was looking for said reading material. As a Librarian in a public library, I was excited when they started ordering more chicklit books upon my recommendation, after noticing other young women my age were looking for the same type of reads.
So this week I am here to share Christmas-themed titles from Bookouture – a fabulous British publishing press – and they have the most scrumptious book covers out there! I absolutely love them! What’s even better…13 more book bloggers are also part of this blog tour, so you’ll have many more reviews and excerpts and blog pages to visit! Are you ready for it?!? Simply follow #BookoutureXmas on Twitter from Oct 22-27 for all the updates!

Today, I am happy to bring an excerpt to the post – called ‘extract’ in Brit language 😉 of Difficult Husbands by Mary de Laszlo “A Christmas tale of family, friends and new beginnings”
Look at the gorgeous cover!

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Find out more about Bookouture Publishing

Now onto the EXTRACT for Difficult Husbands:
PROLOGUE

Christmas in Summer

‘Reset.’ The director, his hair tied carelessly back in a ponytail, called out, and for the umpteenth time Lorna knocked on the fake front door, complete with Christmas wreath, while an underling, with the rosy face of a mischievous cherub, scattered fake snow at her from above. This tickled her nose and made her sneeze and the director sigh, call ‘cut’ and the whole take started again.
Christmas, anxiety gripped her, Christmas in summer. If only it was over when this
shoot was. Even though it was months away she was dreading the real thing; her first Christmas without Stephen, without even her parents to escape to.
‘Reset.’ This time it went better. She opened the door and the camera focused on the
‘room’ conjured up in this stark warehouse. She counted to five while she pretended to be amazed by the magic she saw before her; blazing logs in the fake fireplace, cards hung in streamers among sparkling decorations. There was a show of Christmas fare laid out before her – at least she hadn’t had to cook it, the thought scudded through her mind – then the camera wheeled away to groups of happy, happy people toasting each other with pretend champagne. There were some spotless, tidy children behaving so nicely and quietly – a dream Christmas, when in reality it was often hell.
A small girl – pretty in pink – ruined this cheerful scene by tearing the paper off a
‘present’ only to find a block of polystyrene concealed under the glitzy paper. She howled in disappointment.
Poor little thing, Lorna thought, as her mother scuttled onto the set to retrieve her
sobbing child, that is life though, disappointment often lurks under the glitz. She caught the eye of one of the ‘happy’ people, a woman whose face held remnants of beauty, who’d confided in her before they started shooting that she hated Christmas, her memories of a houseful of cheerful, noisy family celebrations taunting her, now she was alone.
At last it was over, ‘a wrap’. Thankfully, Lorna took off her winter clothes, handing them back to the wardrobe girl. She signed her chit, waved goodbye to the others and left, going back into the sunny day, probably the best one of the summer and she’d missed it while she acted out Christmas inside. Being an extra or ‘supporting cast’ as it was now called, was just another, rather predictable way – a fun way, if you didn’t count the early starts – of earning money.
It was a strange world of unreality; the commercial she’d just worked on portrayed
only the pleasure of Christmas. There was no sign of it being a religious feast, or of unhappiness from a fractured family. It peddled dreams and perhaps spawned resentment in people, most people she’d have thought, especially in these hard times, who’d never achieve such a spectacle.
What would her Christmas be like this year? She could hardly bear to think of it. All those years of special, magical times with her parents and siblings, and continuing with it all with her own children. Even when her parents died she had never confronted the fact that there could come a time when she could be alone for Christmas.
Lorna got into her car, hoping she wouldn’t get lost going home. These studios were usually stuck out somewhere on an industrial estate and were difficult to find, even sometimes for the Sat Nav. She always set off hours early for if you were late on set you were sacked – that was it. ‘End of,’ as her children would say.
Her children, the thought of their pain when Stephen left them brought tears. Marcus said he’d probably go away for Christmas, not able to bear it without his father there, the father as he used to be. Flora slammed a few doors, muttering the same threats. This Christmas she could easily be alone, for the first time in her life, and it terrified her.

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The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins {book review}

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**NO SPOILERS**
This debut suspense/psychological thriller by Paula Hawkins created a ton of buzz before it was published. It was immediately compared to ‘Gone Girl’ (Gillian Flynn) and ‘Before I go to Sleep’ (S.J. Watson) and quickly became the must read of the year. Or so it seemed. Naturally, I wanted to know what the hype was all about and an ecopy was soon sent my way.* Having just recently read ‘Gone Girl’, that book was fresh enough in my mind that I couldn’t help but make comparisons. Obviously, these books aren’t exactly the same, so is it a fair assessment to like one over the other? I don’t know. However, I love this genre. It takes seemingly everyday people and places them in events where the truth is murky, and as a reader you’re not sure who to believe. Naturally, when you’re introduced to a “main” character, that’s whose story you want to believe. At least that’s what I tend to do.

The protagonist of “The Girl on the Train” is a commuter in London named Rachel. She is introduced to us as a lonely, down on her luck kind of a woman, who drinks too much and is still pining for her ex-husband, Tom. Along the way we learn that Rachel is still obsessed with Tom and has had a few run-ins with Tom and his new wife, Anna. This whole scenario doesn’t make for a happy person, so it’s no surprise that Rachel has become enamoured with a couple who she only knows by passing their house on the commuter train. The couple whom Rachel names “Jason and Jess” appear to be the ideal version of wedded bliss. As the story unfolds, “Jess” disappears and Rachel feels she has the answers about what happened, but they are clouded after a night of drinking. Soon, the mystery becomes an obsession.

After a bit of a struggle getting into this book (I don’t know why as I’ve read many British books in the past), I finally got to the point where I just couldn’t put it down! I can’t say that any of the characters were too likeable – I’m still not sure how I feel about Rachel. But, I appreciate her perseverance in learning the truth and finding a way to crawl back from her bleak life. I think she had to be this way in order for the story to unfold.

For me, this book was another one that had me thinking long after I put it down. It’s just so hard to believe – yet, I’m sure it happens – that people really act like this. There’s a lot of cheating, deception and malice to be found in psychological thrillers, and “The Girl” does not disappoint. Do I like that about this genre? Yes and no. Maybe it’s the whole point. It’s like a car accident you come across while driving – you can’t help but turn your head and look. I think most people want to know why others act so unseemly – what drives them to it? What’s their motivation? Are they truly bad people? So many questions, and with books like these, you don’t always get the answers. You’re left to come to conclusions yourself, good or bad.
It sometimes makes you want to scream. Or, you get yourself to the nearest book club, online forum, or wherever else people might be chatting about this book, and start talking! Share ideas! It’s *that* kind of book. So compelling, that I can’t help but recommend it.

Have you read “The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins? How did you feel about it (without revealing any spoilers)? Did it compare, in your mind, to either “Gone Girl” or “Before I go to Sleep”?
And finally, what did you think of the conclusion? I will say now that I liked the conclusion more than I was expecting. It was interesting and *somewhat* satisfying. Not entirely, but I’ll take it.

I hope we see more books from Paula Hawkins, especially in this genre. I’m sure we will.

*Note: I looked at borrowing a copy from my local library system, but well over a 1000 holds had been placed. That’s the sign of an anticipated book!