Sunday, July 27, 2014

Guest Book Review and Giveaway: Styling Wellywood

By Jacqueline Friedland

**Giveaway is now closed**

How do you handle an upsetting situation? Do you face the music, try to come to grips with whatever happened, work through the issues and move forward? Or do you run? Do you evacuate the premises, the neighborhood, the state even? Perhaps you refuse to see or hear anything related to the harrowing incident that has gotten you down. If you ditch the group of friends that made you mad, or drop the class with the professor you accidentally offended, you know what you are: An escapist. You’re one of those people who thinks that if you never return to the store where the salesclerk bitched you out, it’s almost as if that lady does not exist. And if she doesn’t exist, you don’t have to feel bummed that she called you a stuck-up pig, right?

Wrong. In her debut novel, Styling Wellywood: A fashionable romantic comedy, Kate O’Keeffe drives home the point that you cannot always escape from your problems, no matter how far you run. The book’s protagonist, young, attractive, self-deprecating Jessica Banks, is an escapist extraordinaire. The book begins as Jessica reluctantly returns to her hometown of Wellington, New Zealand, single and unemployed. After a mysterious tragedy four years earlier, Jessica had left her family and her besties behind, hightailing it out of town. She spent the next few years living it up in London, but sadly, her visa expired, and she has been forced to return home. The story opens with Jessica watching her younger cousin’s school play, in the same auditorium where she performed as a child, and wondering how she has ended up exactly where she started.

Luckily for Jessica, she has at least arranged a professional venture with one of her best childhood friends. The beautiful and fashion-forward Morgan has agreed to include Jessica as a junior partner in her personal styling business. Jessica also reconnects with her old friend Laura, who is now a spit-up covered, harried mother of twins and Ben, the guy who has been vetting Jessica’s boyfriends since high school. Laura tries to convince Jessica to visit the parents of their other childhood BFF, Lindsay, who is mysteriously absent during much of the story. In typical escapist fashion, however, Jessica continually avoids the task, thereby letting us know that there is a big unresolved issue awaiting consideration.

Meanwhile, Jessica’s mother convinces her to play tennis at the local country club as a means of getting her single self out there. Before she knows it, the world’s hottest tennis pro is pursuing her. His looks make up for what he’s missing between his ears, and Jessica feels her time in Wellington might not be as bad as she expected. Sadly, just a couple of weeks into her return, everything seems to fall apart. Morgan disappears, leaving nothing but a hasty text message and Jessica holding the proverbial styling bag for many a high maintenance client. Worse yet, Laura loses her patience with Jessica’s apparent self-involvement, and Ben turns out to be not at all what Jessica always thought.

Jessica reaches a point where she can do little more than return to the single bed in her very lavender childhood bedroom and hide under her very lavender covers. She is finally motivated by financial necessity to continue the styling business in Morgan’s absence. Although she is petrified to fail without Morgan’s help, she soon learns that she is more capable than she realized. She also discovers that helping her clients deal with personal problems (like getting over a divorce or building self-esteem) through fashion and styling improvements actually helps her make many discoveries and positive changes to herself, as well. It’s not until she goes on a trip to visit her father and his new-age second wife, Morning (yes, that’s her name), that she understands she must face her Wellington demons before she can move forward with her life. Once she stops trying to escape, she might even discover that she doesn’t want to.

Part Bridget Jones’s Diary and part Eat, Pray, Love, O’Keefe’s book blends multiple styles to form a novel that is all its own. At first glance, the book presents like a light, summer beach read. The pacing is fast and there are many romantic conundrums and slapstick snafus. However, underneath the apparent light-hearted fluff are several weighty issues, which O’Keeffe treats with sensitivity, finesse and just the right touch of humor.

This ambitious novel tackles topics ranging from friendship, motherhood and divorce to sexual orientation and mental health issues, all while presenting a charming travelogue about the windiest city in New Zealand (which is apparently the windiest city on the entire Earth). Pieces of the novel might seem trite, like Jessica’s cocktail-drinking man-obsessed divorced mother, her high school arch nemesis who has of course, grown into a beautiful and successful woman, and the romance that you can predict from the novel’s start. Even so, the story’s circuitous path and the meatiness of the underlying issues are sufficient to set this book apart. It is worth escaping to a quiet spot to read O’Keeffe’s engrossing tale.

Thanks to Kate O'Keeffe for the book in exchange for an honest review. She has TWO e-books (Kindle) for some lucky readers anywhere in the world! 

How to win:
We're making it easy this time. Just comment below with your e-mail address or another way to reach you if you win (i.e. Twitter handle)

Entries without contact information will NOT be counted (and we do NOT count "Google +" as contact information).

Worldwide. Giveaway ends August 3rd at midnight EST.


Jacqueline Berkell Friedland is currently an MFA candidate at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York, where she is studying fiction. She if a former attorney and law school professor. When she is not writing, Jacqueline can be found plowing through novels or chasing after her four young children.


31 comments:

Librarian Lavender said...

This sounds like a book I would love! And the cover is so cute, I really like the colors. Great giveaway and thanks for the chance to win :).

@LavenderLibrary

Marsha Bachmeier said...

I for one, like to try to resolve my problems... but sometimes you just need to escape. ;-)

You can reach me at kidisitor@yahoo.com

Janine said...

I love the colorful cover. The book sounds good too.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes, you have to face the music.
Sendsusanmail at gmail dot com

Linda Kish said...

This sounds like it will be quite interesting. Count me in, please.

lkish77123 at gmail dot com

Ro said...

huelsebusch@earthlink.net

Charlotte said...

I am sure this will be a good book.
CABWNANA1@bellsouth.net

Books and Java said...

Sounds like a really fun read.
Laura P. Bryant
Laura.p.bryant-1@hotmail.com

Bonnie K. said...

This caught my attention: "tackles topics ranging from friendship, motherhood and divorce to sexual orientation and mental health issues, all while presenting a charming travelogue about the windiest city in New Zealand (which is apparently the windiest city on the entire Earth". Looks like a good read.

bluedawn95864 at gmail dot com

rhonda said...

Love the cover.
Lomazowr@gmail.com

Pink2 said...

I think I am an escapist!! Thanks for the chance to win!! @bbbaddict

Tami said...

Looks great!!
tamileepronske at gmail dot com

Connie said...

I always face difficult situations head-on. Running away only puts off the inevitable. Face it, do what you have to do, and put it behind you. All done. *dusts hands*

This sounds like a great book that will have the reader really thinking. Hope it helps those people that tend to be a "chicken."

Connie Fischer
conniecape@aol.com

Anita Yancey said...

I always like to face my problems. This book sounds really good. I love romantic comedies. Thanks for having the giveaway.

ayancey1974(at)gmail(dot)com

Jennifer Essad said...

thanks so much for the chance

Melanie Backus said...

This book sounds very entertaining. I would love to read it!

mauback55 at gmail dot com

Rhonda g said...

rhondajgothier@yahoo.com

Thanks

Mary Preston said...

What a fantastic read this promises to be.


marypres(AT)gmail(DOT)com

Retha Cameron said...

Dbcsgirl@comcast.net

Bridget T. said...

Love the book cover.

iambtinrb@aol.com

email

Jessica Meddick said...

Sounds like a great book!

walkingcorpse11@hotmail.com

Emily Lewis said...

love this book cover!!!!
mrsmommybooknerdsbookreviews@gmail.com

Aishwarya Upadhyaya said...

Awesome giveaway :)
aishwaryal136@gmail.com

Margie Durham said...

This sounds like one I would love to read.

opesopinions@gmail.com

Kayla Gothier said...

Love the cover!

Kaylagothier@yahoo.com

susieqlaw said...

Sounds like an interesting book.
sendsusanmail at gmail dot com

Margie said...

Sounds intriguing.
Thanks for the giveaway.
mtakala1 AT yahoo DOT com

Ro said...

huelsebusch@earthlink.net

Rhonda J G said...

Rhondajgothier@yahoo.com

Thanks for a chance!

bn100 said...

Sounds interesting

bn100candg at hotmail dot com

Melissa said...

Thanks for participating!

Thanks to Kate for sharing her book with our winners!

Random.org chose TWO winners from all entries with contact info (one entry per person).

Congrats to Mary Preston and Melanie Backus!