Sunday, August 21, 2011

Just Finished: "Sisterhood Everlasting"

Last week I had a glorious Friday off and I spent a good part of the day reading and finished an entire book - Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares to be specific (in case you couldn't tell from the cover photo above...). I was somehow behind the times with this novel and didn't know it was being released until about a month beforehand. I was very patient and waited for the book to be released and then I ended up having too many books to read in a short period of time once it finally showed up! So, long story short, it took me two months to finally get to it. It was definitely worth the wait though as I absolutely loved it.

Alright, let's get started here with the synopsis from Goodreads:

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Ann Brashares comes the welcome return of the characters whose friendship became a touchstone for a generation. Now Tibby, Lena, Carmen, and Bridget have grown up, starting their lives on their own. And though the jeans they shared are long gone, the sisterhood is everlasting.
Despite having jobs and men that they love, each knows that something is missing: the closeness that once sustained them. Carmen is a successful actress in New York, engaged to be married, but misses her friends. Lena finds solace in her art, teaching in Rhode Island, but still thinks of Kostos and the road she didn’t take. Bridget lives with her longtime boyfriend, Eric, in San Francisco, and though a part of her wants to settle down, a bigger part can’t seem to shed her old restlessness.
Then Tibby reaches out to bridge the distance, sending the others plane tickets for a reunion that they all breathlessly await. And indeed, it will change their lives forever—but in ways that none of them could ever have expected.
As moving and life-changing as an encounter with long-lost best friends, Sisterhood Everlasting is a powerful story about growing up, losing your way, and finding the courage to create a new one.
I've been reading the Sisterhood novels pretty much from the beginning (which was 2003, by the by). It was one of those books that a friend had, she lent it to me, I loved it so I bought a copy myself. That copy then got passed around time and time again. I've read it probably three times, my sister twice, and countless of our friends have borrowed it as well. Needless to say, the paperback copy of the first novel is well loved! Since I've been reading the series for so long, it surprises me when I hear that people still haven't read them. I know some people haven't gotten around to it because they've seen the movies but the films really do not do the books justice. There is so much going on in the books and the second movie is a strange sort of combination of the final three books. Trust me - read the first four books and then Sisterhood Everlasting. You will not be disappointed.

I actually wasn't sure how this book was going to turn out. I was worried that I wouldn't get the conclusion I wanted, and, well, thought I (as a reader) deserved. I really shouldn't have been worried. I loved this novel and thought that it was wrapped up beautifully. However, I must warn all readers - this book is totally heart wrenching. The synopsis kind of lets you know that something tragic is going to happen, and oh boy is it ever tragic. As horrible as the situation is and as much as it upset me it worked with the story. For those of you who have read this already, what did you think of the tragedy?

I found that I had to keep reminding myself that the four friends were just about to turn thirty. None of them seemed to have totally grown up yet and I think that's one of the problems they're facing. I think they feel stuck because the four of them are spread out, living lives that are totally separate from each other. They've lost touch and, as Carmen points out, are realizing that their friendship is not built for leaving. It's not until they're faced with an unimaginable tragedy that they come to terms with their lives and find a way to recreate the closeness they used to have.

I can't tell you enough how much I loved this book. I devoured it in a day because I just couldn't put it down. These characters have been with me for years and it was bittersweet to have the series come to an end. I'm so happy with the way they ended up and I think you will agree. It may not be a picture perfect ending, but life rarely turns out perfectly.

This is one of those books that make you appreciate your friendships. Here's to best friends. Happy reading.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Just Finished: "Go Small or Go Home"

Ladies and gentlemen, I think I have found a new favourite author and her name is Heather Wardell. I read her first novel Life, Love, and a Polar Bear Tattoo back in June and I absolutely loved it (read my review here). I've finally been able to get to the next book in Heather's "Toronto" series Go Small or Go Home. Here's the synopsis, courtesy of Goodreads:

When massage therapist and aspiring artist Tess begins treating stressed but attractive hockey star Forrest, her art career soars due to his gallery-owning mother, but her creativity plummets under the weight of rules and deadlines. Soon, she's lost the freedom and joy she'd always found in art. Is having her dream career worth losing doing her art her way, or can she somehow have both at once?
I didn't think it was possible but I may like this one more than Polar Bear. The characters are so real and well rounded, the story flows, and I was engaged in the novel for its entirety. Plus, I loved that it focused on a hockey player - hockey isn't my favourite sport but I am Canadian after all :)

Tess has a big decision to make in her life - should she keep working as a massage therapist, something she enjoys and is good at, or should she focus on making art her career, not as profitable but something that she loves deep down in her soul? It's something that everyone likely deals with. When we're in school and growing up we think that we're going to have a job that we're absolutely in love with and fulfills us on all levels. However...that can't always happen for everyone. Most people have a job that they enjoy but it's not what they feel passionate about. I'm one of them. I like my job but reading and writing and thinking about books is what really inspires me. For Tess, it was her art that inspired her on a level that massage just could not. I know this is pretty deep but I think this whole idea is part of why I loved this book so much. It made me think a whole lot more than some other books I've read. Alright, time to move onto something a little more lighthearted...

Let's talk about the fact that Forrest is a professional hockey player and absolutely gorgeous. When I mentioned on Twitter that I had finished the novel, Heather replied with the following tweet:

Do any of my Canadian female friends agree? Do you think a good looking pro hockey player is a Canadian girl's dream guy? Maybe not even just Canadian seems Hilary Duff and Carrie Underwood are quite happy with their pro hockey players (both Canadian guys, by the by) Anyway, I loved Forrest. He was a real guys-guy - athlete, manly, and so on, but he had an amazing emotional depth to him as well, one that you don't see in many fictional athletes. He had obviously suffered more than just a physical injury and the way we find out about it is great, in my opinion. Tess finds out bits and pieces doing research but we get frustrated right along with her as Forrest is less than forthcoming with his past and his problems. And, of course, it was absolutely lovely to picture the scenes when Tess massaging Forrest... *cough* back to the review :)

Have you ever read a book that you loved so much that you were both sad and happy to be finished with? This was one of those books for me. I was reading outside in the sun on my lunch and as I "closed" the book (was reading on my Kobo) after reading the last words I actually sighed. That is how good it was, my friends.

Overall, the book thrilled me. The story itself was something totally different than I had ever read before with characters that have such unique interests and quirks. Their story grabs you and doesn't let you go, even when the book is finished.

I could probably go on and on about different aspects of this novel that I loved but I don't want to bore you. Instead, you should take the time to read the novel yourself! Trust me. You'll love it too.

Happy reading :)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

August Chick Lit Review #2: Click: An Online Love Story

Welcome to my second review for the challenge hosted by Chick Lit Plus! I decided to tackle two debut novels this month. The first was Confessions of a Call Center Gal (read my review here) and the second is the focus of this review - Click: An Online Love Story by Lisa Becker.

I wanted to read this novel because Chick Lit Plus hosted a blog tour back in July and I thought it looked like fun. (If you're interested in what others had to say about this novel, read on here) Here's the synopsis from Goodreads:

Fast approaching her 30th birthday and finding herself not married, not dating, and without even a prospect or a house full of cats, Renee Greene, the heroine of Click: An Online Love Story, reluctantly joins her best guy pal on a journey to find love online in Los Angeles. The story unfolds through a series of emails between Renee and her best friends (anal-compulsive Mark, the overly-judgmental Ashley and the over-sexed Shelley) as well as the gentlemen suitors she meets online. From the guy who starts every story with "My buddies and I were out drinking one night," to the egotistical "B" celebrity looking for someone to stroke his ego, Renee endures her share of hilarious and heinous cyber dates. Fraught with BCC's, FWD's and inadvertent Reply to All's, readers will root for Renee to "click" with the right man.
Overall, I thought this book was fun and the story was entertaining. What was interesting about this novel was that it was written entirely in emails. I liked the idea but it didn't quite work for me. I didn't feel like I really got a great feeling for Renee, the main character, let alone any of the secondary characters. Lisa did a good job of putting explanations for what happened in the emails between Renee, Shelley, Ashley, Mark, and the various men Renee meets online. That being said, it seemed like this format worked really well for events and plot but the emotional part of the story, the part that really makes you connect with the characters, didn't quite work through emails.

The only other thing I didn't like about this book was how totally "over-sexed" Shelley is. Most people are aware of Samantha in Sex and the City and how promiscuous she is. Shelley was just the same way. I have no issue with her sleeping around and finding a new man every weekend, but what bothered me was that every single conquest was given a nickname - The Cuddler, the Tongue, Mocha Man, etc. It was funny to start but once I got really into the novel I just kind of got tired of it. Part of that may be because I felt it took away from the main point of the novel which was Renee trying to find a man through online dating.

All that being said...I really liked the whole premise of the novel. The novel begins right after New Year's and an email from Mark where he tells Renee that he wants to try online dating but wants some moral support. Renee is going to be turning thirty this year so she thinks, why not? I liked that she met all kinds of guys on the site and seemed to get emails from every single type of guy. I could really feel her frustration at some points and could understand when she wanted to just throw in the towel. The dates were amusing to read about. This is one time that the email format of the book worked. I felt like I was another one of Renee's friends and she was filling me in on another of her dates from hell.

Overall, I did enjoy this book. It was a really fast and fun read. I would recommend it to any chick lit fans but would make sure they knew it was not a conventional novel. The email format may not be for everyone. I think you'll laugh out loud at quite a few parts and cringe right along with Renee.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Author Guest Post: Britney Bronte

Samantha at Chick Lit Plus has organized a blog tour for Britney Bronte's novel Do Not Lick the Phones. If you want to see all the reviews, check out the CLP Blog Tour page for Britney. Read on for a really interesting guest post from Britney. PS If you like what you read, find Britney on Facebook and Twitter and check out her novel!

Posh agents call chicklit ‘Commercial Women’s Fiction,’ which covers everything from  romance to comedy. But more and more, chicklit is treated like a specific genre; modern, popular, and very lighthearted. Even when hearts are breaking, there’s fun to be had. Chicklit book covers often have a certain look, maybe a pastel background with some cute cartoon depiction of what’s going on between the pages. This is stuff that will entertain you on the train, not send your mascara careering half way down your face before work starts. 

One of the most important things about chicklit is that the main character is someone readers can relate to.  You may not like them, you may spend half the book wanting to throw them in the nearest dumpster, but somehow you get where they’re coming from. 

That’s one of the things that separates the chicklit heroine from her cousin, the pure romance heroine.  Purely romantic heroines  can get away with near perfection, though they are more interesting without it (look at Jane Eyre, who isn’t pretty, check out Scarlett O’ Hara who’s a monster of selfishness) but chicklit heroines are defined by their flaws. If a chicklit heroine isn’t human and humorous, the story’s on a hiding to nothing.  Romantic heroines often suffer from other people’s follies and villainies. That can happen to chicklit heroines too, but more often they are the ones making the daft mistakes.  It’s what makes them approachable and real.  Do Not Lick The Phones is a fiction based on a real world.  The story’s told in the first person, and I’ve used the pseudonym Britney Bronte. So is Britney romance or chicklit? And how much of her is me?

Britney would love to be pure romance, but she’s clumsy and her life is too funny. The moment romance dares to be ridiculous and laugh at itself, it’s chicklit.  Of course there’s a lot of me in Britney. I’m just harsher and further away. I like my heroine very much,  but it’s my job to put her through hell for the sake of a good story.  So can you base a chicklit heroine on your own dreams of romance?  Sure, with separation, distance and discipline.  Here’s a test for you.

Think about your plot;

Does it make you rage? OK, it may need journaling and redefining, some time to brew before you use it. Rage fuels some awesome artistic work, but it can also create ranting drivel.

Does it make you dream and maybe cry a little? Looks like you’re going down the pure romance route. Sigh, swoon, get it all down. We’re all ready to dream alongside you.

Does it make you laugh?

That’s the one, that’s the chicklit getting ready to leap from your keyboard to the screen and beyond.  These definitions may be useful or they may not matter at all. The secret, the only secret, is to get in front of your PC and write!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

August Chick Lit Review: Confessions of a Call Center Gal

For this month's Chick Lit Plus Challenge I've decided to tackle two debut novels, just for fun :) The first I read was Confessions of a Call Center Gal by Lisa Lim (and by the way, it is incredibly difficult to be Canadian and type "center" goes against how I learned to spell!) I really enjoyed it and want to thank Lisa for sending me a copy of her book to review.

Here's the review from Goodreads:

A fun chick lit romance that may appeal to fans of Sophie Kinsella. Bridget Jones meets The Office. Madison Lee is a fresh college grad, ready to take on the world of print media. But she has zero luck landing a job. Unemployment is at ten percent and on the rise. Desperate and left with no other options, she accepts a position as a service rep at a call center in Pocatello, Idaho. At the Lightning Speed call center in Spudsville, Maddy plunges into the wild and dysfunctional world of customer service where Sales is prided over Service and an eight hour shift is equivalent to eight hours of callers bashing her over the phone. Oh sure, the calls are bad. But Maddy manages to find humor on the phone and off the phone. And with all the salacious drama behind the calls, there is never a dull moment at the Lightning Speed call center.
Lately . . . Maddy has been pining for her smolderingly gorgeous co-worker Mika Harket. Now things are heating up on the phone--and elsewhere. Don't hang up on this novel. Working at a call center has never been this garish . . . or this delightful.

I think the synopsis has the right idea - this novel was definitely a mix of Bridget Jones and The Office. The main character, Maddy, isn't perfect but is lovable anyway and she works in a place that most people can't wait to get out of. I really understood how frustrated Maddy was about not being able to find a "real" job after graduation because I was in that same boat when I graduated from university (and then college after a one year program). Not a exactly a good time. Because I knew what she was going to, I found I was able to immediately identify with Maddy which was great.

It wasn't just the lack of a real job that I identified with but also the job itself. While I've never worked in a call centre (yes, I had to switch back to good ol' Canadian spelling!) I have worked in retail. Maddy talks about now knowing how the person on the other side of the phone feels. Everyone has probably had a bad experience with a telephone customer service agent. This novel should make you realize that those people on the line are people too. Read this little excerpt and you'll see how Maddy's point of view has changed, and hopefully yours will too:
In the past, whenever I called Bank of America, FedEx, Delta, Anthropologie or J.Crew, I was always the customer. And I never thought twice about the person on the other end of the line.
But I've now had a peek behind the Iron curtain.
I've lived in a world that we all experience but seldom bother to understand once we hang up the phone...
I think working in a call centre is another one of those jobs that everyone should have at some point in their lives, retail and food services are two others. You really understand how hard it is to do these seemingly menial jobs once you've worked in them. If you can survive at least one Christmas in retail, you can do almost anything (and I've gone through three of them...but the last one almost killed me!) I worked in a book store and there were customers who thought I should know everything about every single book (Sorry I can't name every single author who you may like because I haven't actually read the entire store) and those who thought I didn't know a thing (why yes, I do actually know that Nora Roberts and J.D. Robb are the same person. No need to tell me that six times in the same conversation. True story). Because of this, and multiple other issues, I try and be polite to every salesperson and understand when they're the only one on the floor and I have to wait a moment. The only time I get annoyed is when they really seem to hate their lives. I know retail can suck but you're at work, deal with it until you're off the floor, ok? Sorry - I sort of veered away from the review but I feel like this is something that everyone needs to think about. Those customer service people you deal with on a daily basis are just like you so treat them like you'd like to be treated...ok? Ok. Back to the review!

Like I said, I did enjoy this book. Maddy was actually quite easy to like. You think I sound surprised? Well, I was. Even though I knew what she was going through I didn’t think I was going to like her when I first started the novel. I don’t think there’s anything I can really put my finger on, but I thought she was, well, stupid for getting drunk and going to work. And continuing to drink at work. I get that it was Christmas and it wasn’t going to be busy etc. but really? Talk about jeopardizing your job. Eventually Maddy really did grow on me. She is a smart and clever girl and it was fun to read about her escapades.
I loved the little romance that happened in the novel. It was expected but I did find myself worrying that what I thought was going to happen maybe wouldn’t happen! I applaud Lisa for being able to pull that off.
There was an interesting cast of secondary characters in this novel. Kars was Maddy’s best friend and featured prominently in the novel. She was also lovable because she is like that friend you have who sometimes bothers and embarrasses you but you love her anyway. Mika was downright adorable and seemed like such a great guy. There were also a myriad of other call centre folk who spiced up the novel with their crazy antics.
While I found that some parts of the novel seemed to get off track (when Kars has surgery on her jaw and the whole debacle with the jealously of the cafeteria girl – whose name I can’t remember…oops) overall, the book had me laughing out loud in several parts. I enjoyed it and think others would as well. You have to have the right sense of humour though, because some people could get offended (and Lisa told me they’ve actually written her nasty emails. Not cool). Pick this book up for a fun read and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. If nothing else, think about how you treat customer service agents (whether on the phone or behind a cash register) and please treat them with respect, ok?
Happy reading! :)

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Chick Lit Plus Blog Tour: Blow Me

I was lucky enough to read Blow Me by Lennie Ross as part of the Chick Lit Plus organized blog tour. I want to thank both Lennie and Samantha for allowing me to be a part of this tour!

I know you're probably dying to know what this book is about (and with a title like Blow Me, how could you not be curious?) so here is the synopsis for you from Goodreads:

Blow Me is the story of three single women—each close to forty and living a life they have long outgrown. Aware that the women’s magazines of their youth sold them a false bill of goods about having it all—the amazing career, the baby, the house, the husband—each woman is desperate to achieve some sense of stability. Skylar, a hairdresser/executive assistant who lost her job and burned down her apartment after a fondue party, is living out of her car; Chloe, a struggling actress/real estate agent with a French Canadian accent who has never sold a house and doesn’t have her SAG card, struggles to get a Green Card; and Dawn, an MBA-educated dating matchmaker, is hedging her bets against the ticking clock by freezing embryos. Their lives are in chaos and their only hope is to be rescued through marriage or by a Hairy Godfather. Situated in the shallow world of Los Angeles, this provocative novel in the style of Sex and the City provides a humorous look at aging, dating, and being single in the new millennium.
Overall, this was a pretty good book. I didn't love it but I didn't hate it either. The novel was funny and the ending was nicely wrapped up, but there were a few things that didn't sit well with me, including the aforementioned ending. Without giving too much away, I felt like two of the characters (Dawn and Skylar) had everything almost handed to them and their life problems were completely solved because of the men they met. It was all just a little too...easy. I understand that they both had hard times before meeting their men (Dawn isn't happy with her job and feels her biological clock ticking and Skye gets fired and starts living out of her car) but they got everything they ever could have wanted by the end of the novel. Maybe I wasn't ok with this because I'm just jealous :) I'd love everything to fall into place like they did for Dawn and Skye. You will notice that I haven't mentioned Chloe yet. She's a (not very successful) real estate agent and wannabe actress and at the end of the novel her life ends up a quite a bit differently than the other women. I'll let you read the book to find out for yourselves because it's definitely a laugh out loud moment.

As you could see from the synopsis, the three women are around forty years old. I don't know if it's because of the way they acted or because I'm in my twenties, but I kept picturing them as much younger. There were multiple times throughout the novel that I had to remind myself that these women were not, in fact, twenty somethings, but instead, they were older women who hadn't found their right paths in life yet. I think this is the reason why I didn't love the book - maybe I'm just too young to really relate to them. That, and I have no clue what it's like to live in L.A.!

Even with these issues I had with the book, the novel still kept me entertained throughout the story. Some of the hijinks the women get up to are just so outrageous but somehow work (particularly the fire that happens in Skye's apartment...ridiculously hilarious). It's also fairly ridiculous that the three women are friends but sometimes really can't stand each other. I know some friends get annoyed with even their BFF's sometimes but this was a whole new level. It's like they didn't always get each other on a fundamental level but were still really good friends, especially Skylar and Dawn. It's actually kind of like Samantha and Charlotte on Sex and the City. They're friends because of a mutual friend and while they are quite different, they're still very good friends. Does that make sense to anyone else who's read Blow Me?

Overall, the book kept me entertained and I enjoyed it. The things the women get up to could be offensive to some people but I found most of it really funny. I would still recommend this book, even though I didn't love it. Lennie Ross has a great writing style and she pulls you into the characters lives. Check out her website to learn more about her! Thanks again to Samantha and Lennie for having me be part of this tour!

Happy weekend reading, everyone :)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Vacation Reads Challenge: Scotland by Starlight

Oh my gosh. That's all I can say to this novel right now. Wow.


Ok, that's better. Here we go...

I really liked Nancy Volkers' first novel, A Scottish Ferry Tale, so I knew I should like the sequel Scotland by Starlight as well. I was actually wrong. I loved the sequel. I started the book a few days ago, finished it this evening and during that time I have pretty much been thinking about it nonstop. It was that good. But...well, there's one thing I can't get over but I'll give you the synopsis from Goodreads first and then I'll really get into what I thought about this book.

Cassie Wrentham is on her way to Scotland again... but this time it's not vacation. She's moving in with Ralph Macnair, the charismatic Scotsman who stole her heart. But Cassie wouldn't be Cassie without doubts. Will she find a job in a tight U.K. economy? Would marrying Ralph now be only for convenience's sake? Will she fit in, make friends, make a life there? Or will it all fall apart? Bursting with a lively cast of characters, all with their own stories and challenges, Scotland By Starlight follows Cassie and Ralph from the new beginnings of their intense relationship to a conclusion like no other.
I read A Scottish Ferry Tale as part of a blog tour organized by Chick Lit Plus (if you missed my review, you can find it here). I really enjoyed it, and not only because it was set in Scotland (more about that later). Nancy oh so generously sent me a (signed!) copy of Scotland by Starlight a few months ago and I finally got to read it this week. This was one of those books that I did not want to put down and when I had to, I couldn't stop thinking about it. I don't know what it was about the story that grabbed me so much but I could really feel the intensity of Cassie and Ralph's relationship. Did anyone else feel that way? They love each other so passionately and it really seemed to come through the pages. Their relationship managed to be both idealistic and realistic at the same time. They were just like any other couple with their disagreements, insecurities, and doubts but they were so madly in love with each other and it showed. They seemed to have the perfect balance of a serious but fun relationship and I think that's something that everyone strives for.

One of the things I didn't like about A Scottish Ferry Tale was that Ralph was so much older than Cassie (twenty years older, to be least, I hope that's precise. My math skills aren't exactly stellar). It was an issue that I felt wasn't mentioned or even really acknowledged in the book. In Scotland by Starlight, however, it really seemed to be addressed, especially when Cassie talked about how she was worried about being left alone. This made it easier for me to really imagine Cassie and Ralph correctly (I used to see Ralph much you'll see in my review I pictured him looking Matthew Goode) and I think I appreciated the story even better. Personally, I still can't quite get over the twenty year gap, but their love for each other definitely overshadows their age difference.

Part of why I loved this book, and why I chose it as part of the Vacation Reads Challenge (see Ruby's Reads blog for details), is that it is based in Scotland. Being part Scottish (my last name is Stewart. Can't get a whole lot more Scottish than that!) I've always wanted to travel to Scotland. This was one of those books that made me feel like I was actually there. Not because they traveled to many Scottish tourist destinations (though Cassie does show her friend Leslie around a bit when she's visiting), it's more that the characters were all so incredibly Scottish. They live, breath, and speak Scottish on every page and I found myself totally immersed in it. It didn't hurt that Gaelic is spoken by Ralph and his friends and family in their everyday speech. Can you imagine your boyfriend/fiance/husband calling you "mo chridh", instead of the "my heart" or saying "Is tu m'annsachd" instead of "you are my best beloved". Swoon.

I also really liked that each chapter began with the motto of a different Scottish clan. It really added an additional Scottish element to the novel. Each motto was chosen for a reason as it related to the chapter that followed. Of course, I'm partial to chapter 17:

Virescit vulnere virtus
Courage grows strong at a wound
Clan Stewart

There are probably many other things I could say about this book but I don't want to give anything away. That and it's getting late and my brain has stopped functioning correctly. I have to say that I was blindsided by the ending, hence the needing to breathe at the beginning of this post. If you're like me (and a couple of other people) you will cry. A lot. I would probably give this book a five star rating if it wasn't for the ending. I know not all books can have a happy ending but having a sad ending come out of nowhere can be tough. However, that being said, the whole book is so intense, romantic, and real and the conclusion really reflects that. All in all, I loved Scotland by Starlight. I highly recommend you check out both of Nancy Volkers' books - and then let me know what you think!

Now that I've shared with you my ideal travel destination - who wants to tell me where they would love to travel?

Happy reading :)

UPDATE: When I finished this post I emailed Nancy to let her know that I had read, reviewed, and loved her book. I appreciated that she took the time to reply and thank me. I wanted to share a part of her email with you because it shows how authors don't always know how their stories will end up either:  
Many folks are upset by the ending.... all I can say is that I sat down one day and started writing in Ralph's voice, and that's what came out. I didn't like it much either! :-)