Tag Archives: entertaining reads

Crying, Waiting, Hoping

Spin: A Novel by Catherine McKenzie (William Morrow Paperbacks, $14.99, 448 pages)

McKenzie presents sensitive topics with such blatant honesty and humor that I found myself laughing out loud.

Kate Sanford is trying to hold on to her college days, scheduling parties instead of business meetings, when she is given an interview for the job of a lifetime as a music writer for her favorite magazine, The Line.   The night before the interview, to celebrate her potential life changing opportunity and as well her thirtieth birthday, she agrees to go out with her friends for a quick drink.   Still intoxicated the morning after, she bombs the interview but is offered an ironic opportunity.   Kate’s assignment is to go undercover and follow a Lindsay-Lohan-type icon…  in rehab!

Kate signs into rehab (drunk) and begins to go through the steps to recovery as she writes about the “it girl” Amber Sheppard and her “young James Bond” boyfriend, Connor.   Yet the story begins to spin as Kate befriends Amber as well as Connor’s perpetual assistant, Henry.   As Kate continues her assignment, she is challenged with perhaps the real reasons she is in rehab and the ultimate decision of whether her “dream job” is worth hurting those she has met along the way.

My head is spinning out questions, but I don’t have any answers.   I feel like they’re floating in front of me, but they haven’t taken shape.   And instead of making progress, I’m in suspended animation, waiting, hoping for something to happen, but unable to make it so.

Spin is a lighthearted, quick read full of interesting characters and believable experiences.   McKenzie presents sensitive topics with such blatant honesty and humor that I found myself at times laughing out loud.   Her characters are real, both the famous and infamous, with evident flaws but each possessing their own charm.   Everyone is on their own path of self-discovery and yield realistic and often disappointing conclusions as they deal with their addictions and shortcomings.   As the story unfolds they find that perhaps they have more in common than anticipated.

McKenzie touches upon the realism of chemical dependency.   Through her characters’ therapy discussions she presents scenarios on how individuals find themselves in these situations, how relationships are affected and how difficult it can be to continue down the path of sobriety.   She keeps the topics light through the quirkiness of her characters and with the flowing humorous dialogue throughout the novel.

McKenzie demonstrates Kate’s love of music with random references to songs that have particular meaning to her main character and provides “Kate’s Playlist” at the end of the novel.   This would have been an interesting way to perhaps introduce more of Kate’s past and further describe her family dynamics but I enjoyed the references for their simplicity.

If you are searching for a deep, life-changing novel, you will be disappointed, but if you are interested in a well-written story laden with real issues presented with quick wit and humor, this is the novel for you.   Spin would make a fabulous holiday or book club read.   I enjoyed the book from page one through to the end; therefore, this novel is…  Well recommended.

Kelly Monson

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

Imagine if Bridget Jones fell into a million little pieces, flew over the cuckoo’s nest, and befriended Lindsay Lohan along the way, and you are beginning to grasp the literary roller coaster ride that is Catherine McKenzie’s Spin.   Filled with brutal honesty and wry humour, Spin is a story for everyone who has ever woken up hung over and thought, “Do I have a problem?   Yes – I need to find a greasy breakfast.”   And by that I mean everyone I know.   Leah McLaren, Globe and Mail Columnist, author of The Continuity Girl

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To the Manor Worn

Grace Under Pressure by Julie Hyzy (Berkley Prime Crime Mystery)

Veteran mystery writer Julie Hyzy moves to a new locale with this her first book in a new series titled Manor House Mysteries.   The setting for these tales is Marshfield Manor.   This stately southern home is more than just the setting for a mystery, it is a character in itself.   It is the centerpiece of a somewhat down-at-the-heels southern estate owned by the elderly billionaire, Bennett Marshfield.   The home is a mystery reader’s delight with a hidden staircase and a secret room.   The estate also includes a hotel, tea room and abundant grounds.   They, too, play parts in the story.

Grace Wheaton, the new assistant curator whose dream it has been to be part of Marshfield Manor, has been a visitor to the mansion since her childhood.   Little  did she think that being a curator would entail murder, extortion and secrets from her own family’s past.   The staff at Marshfield includes a highly opinionated, though thoroughly capable executive assistant named Frances and an earnest, well-trained head of security named Terrence Carr.

When the elderly head curator is brutally murdered, a series of demand letters for money comes to light.   Grace must prove herself trustworthy to Bennett Marshfield if she is to become the next head curator.   The story is quite engaging if not quite intellectually challenging.   Rather than a romance-based mystery, this is the story of several generations whose ability to trust each other comes into question.  

Author Hyzy provides a classic summer vacation read in Grace Under Pressure.   It is a perfect in flight read.   Recommended.

This review was written by Ruta Arellano.   A copy of this book was provided by the publisher, and the cover of this book is exemplary!

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