05 May 2012

All For You

By Sheila O'Flanagan
Published by Headline Review
an imprint of Headline Publishing Group
First published in 2011

Lainey Ryan is a meterologist living in Dublin.  Tall and beautiful, she is a hit as the local TV station's "weather girl".  She longs to be married and this longing leads to a life of failed relationships.

Deanna Ryan is a high-profile feminist living in California.  Stern and opinionated, she is a hit in the world of publishing.  She longs for women to be equal to men and this longing leads to a life of failed motherhood.

Deanna is Lainey's estranged mother who left Lainey to be raised by her grandparents in Ireland whilst Deanna lived and worked for the feminist cause in California.

While the name of the book leads you to believe this is a typical chick-lit type of book where the lead character finds her dream man and lives happily ever after, this book is more about the choices women make for love.  For Deanna, her choice to leave Lainey with her grandparents was because she knew Lainey would have a better life; Deanna wasn't cut out to be the kind of mother Lainey needed.  For Lainey, her choices in men were due to never having a father and feeling the need to be loved by a man in order to fill that void in her life - and any man at all is acceptable.

The novel goes back and forth between Deanna's life as a young woman in California and present-day Ireland.  While obviously a tool to see how Deanna's and Lainey's lives unfold, it was annoying to be in the present day and then be sent back in time.  A story told from beginning to end would have been more effective.


I liked O'Flanagan's decision to end the novel with Lainey unattached and liking it.  However, I
detest the idea of Deanna suddenly dyeing her hair and buying more flattering clothes because she has met a man.  After reading an entire novel where Deanna was a strong feminist character with unwavering opinions, it was disappointing to see such a change in her character.  As well, I felt the backstory for Lainey's father fell a bit flat.

O'Flanagan has written a good story of love for grandmother, mother, and daughter, and how women's lives have changed since the 1970s.  However, it's not as well thought out as her previous novels, the characters are not as compelling, and the ending a disappointment.

01 January 2012

A Season to Remember

By Sheila O'Flanagan
Published by Headline Review
an imprint of Headline Publishing Group
First published in paperback in 2011

Claire and Neil Archer own the Sugar Loaf Lodge, a luxury hotel with an award-winning restaurant and a breathtaking spa - an oasis of peace and serenity withing striking distance of Dublin. With the economic downturn in Ireland, the Archers wonder if the hotel will be filled for Christmas this year and how they will get by if it is not.

Nestled in what is known as the Garden of Ireland, the Lodge provides the perfect backdrop to a gorgeous handful of integrated short stories centering around Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. On Christmas Eve the Lodge begins to receive its guests. Mostly families arrive - some want a break from the cooking and overkill that is Christmas Day, some want to repair the damage the year has brought them, some want to be alone, some want to reunite. Mix well with a few singletons and, believe it or not, a visit from a ghost, and you have the recipe for some lovely Christmas stories.

O'Flanagan always gets to the heart of family life, be it good or bad, and she gets it just right when writing about families at Christmas. Although a joyous and family-filled time of year for some, it can oftentimes be the opposite for families and both views are reflected in this book.

Although O'Flanagan has written a novel, the stories can be read as separate entities. Characters from one story appear in other stories to keep it cohesive.

A Season to Remember is a lovely novel to read at any time, but it was certainly nice to read it over Christmas. There's still a few days left to the season - fit it in if you can.