Official Review: In and Out of Step by Christine M Knight

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dragonet07
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Official Review: In and Out of Step by Christine M Knight

Post by dragonet07 » 27 Apr 2018, 20:17

[Following is an official OnlineBookClub.org review of "In and Out of Step" by Christine M Knight.]
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4 out of 4 stars
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In and Out of Step by Christine M. Knight is an emotional roller coaster about learning to adapt to changes both in the world and in oneself. From generational gaps to gender differences, Knight explores the joy and strife of living in modern Australia. Sexist men clash with strong, independent women; stubborn parents butt heads with equally stubborn children; and all must come together when tragedy strikes.

Cassie Sleight has just accepted a job on the English staff of a local high school in Keimera, Australia. With a troubled past she’d rather forget and dancing dreams she’s thrown aside, Cassie jumps at the chance to run from it all. Of course, nothing is ever that easy when it comes to change. Sexist attitudes from both students and male staff plague her new workplace, and her past is always lingering right over her shoulder. She makes friends in her new home, but she also makes enemies. As things yo-yo among the bad, the good, and the confusing, will Cassie be able to find balance in her new life? Or will she buckle under the pressure and run from her problems once again?

Sexism is never an easy subject to address, and that fact still rings true in this novel. I found it hard to read much of the grief Cassie has to experience; I often oscillated between cringing and fuming over the situation. However, that is part of what makes Knight’s writing so engaging. She does not just present workplace sexism and sexual harassment factually or gloss over it. Instead, readers can feel the tension between male and female characters.

Fortunately, Knight does not just highlight the differences and difficulties in male/female relationships. Most of the partnerships and friendships are complicated by good times and bad. One prominent example is the married couple George and Minna, the owners of the boarding house in which Cassie lives. They clearly have their differences and their marriage has strained, but they are still a loving couple and complement each other very well. The budding friendship between Cassie and Michael—George and Minna’s son—also blossoms into a well-balanced dynamic, but I can’t discuss that relationship too much without the risk of spoilers.

Unfortunately, much of the character development comes through exposition. Most characters, at one point or another, have a chunk of sentences which explains some of their backstory and personality, sometimes in the narration and sometimes in dialogue. Knight uses this technique fairly well and sparingly, and it is necessary to convey crucial information. Still, it is not my preferred method of characterization and can slow down the story.

I did not think this a flaw in the work but, due to the setting, the story heavily references Australia. Non-Australian readers, especially American readers, will have a lot of cultural references, social structures, geography, and terminology to research. I spent a bit of time looking into how the Australian education system works as I was entirely lost on that front. Yet rather than detract from my reading experience, this need to research enhanced it. I was forced to spend more time in the narrative and the setting in order to understand the story. I have read books about Australia before, but this is the first to have so completely immersed me in the country.

There are some sexual and sensual scenes in the novel. Knight does not go into much detail with these and, in my opinion, they are tastefully written. Still, some readers might want to avoid such depictions and I do not think that children should read this book as a result. Furthermore, one of the characters gets raped. Victims of sexual assault might be triggered by this scene and more sensitive readers will find it hard to read. This event does not overwhelm the text and it juxtaposes the scene preceding it perfectly; I just know that some readers will want to avoid it, and I think teenagers, in addition to children, should not read In and Out of Step because of that scene.

Overall, I give In and Out of Step by Christine M. Knight 4 out of 4 stars. The writing is lovely, the themes are handled tactfully, and the characters are well developed. However, I dislike the amount of characterization and backstory which occurs through exposition. That being said, the exposition does not cause enough problems to take away from the rating.

It’s also worth noting that the book clocks in at 480 pages and does not focus on plot. The plot is well thought out and riveting; it just isn’t the main focus. Some gripping moments of action and urgency also pop up, but the story is definitely more defined by its characters than its events. Anyone who likes character-driven novels will love this one and find it worth the time commitment. I did not notice any proofreading errors, which is always a bonus for me. So, if you like books with strong character development and ethical explorations and do not mind reading about touchy subjects, I highly recommend In and Out of Step.

******
In and Out of Step
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Post by Kat Berg » 28 Apr 2018, 23:34

This doesn't sound quite like my kind of book, although I do like that it is set in Australia. That fact makes me want to pick up a series set there that I haven't read in awhile. I wonder how explicit the rape scene is? Primarily because of the caution for YA. Many YA books deal with this topic and it is, unfortunately, a fact of life for even teenagers. Thanks for your review!

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Post by dragonet07 » 28 Apr 2018, 23:58

Kat Berg wrote:
28 Apr 2018, 23:34
This doesn't sound quite like my kind of book, although I do like that it is set in Australia. That fact makes me want to pick up a series set there that I haven't read in awhile. I wonder how explicit the rape scene is? Primarily because of the caution for YA. Many YA books deal with this topic and it is, unfortunately, a fact of life for even teenagers. Thanks for your review!
Not so much young adults as teenagers in high school is what I meant, and that's mostly because it's a subject that could be hard for people under 18 to read without having an adult to discuss it with. It's definitely--and incredibly unfortunately--a fact of life for teenagers, as you said; it's just that if I had an underaged teenager, I wouldn't want them to read about something like that unless I did as well and could discuss it with them. However, that is just my personal preference and others might not see it that way. The scene is not very explicit but it's pretty clear what happens. Perhaps I should have said that underaged teenagers should proceed with caution because of this scene, not necessarily avoid reading it altogether, as many teenagers are mature enough to read such material and use it to learn about the harsh truths of life.

I will make sure I'm clearer in future reviews, thank you for pointing that out!
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Post by Libs_Books » 29 Apr 2018, 01:49

This sounds like a really worthwhile book. I agree with you, on principle, about the use of exposition, but you completely justify why you still gave the book top ranking. Great review!

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Post by revna01 » 29 Apr 2018, 12:21

Although I enjoy a character-driven novel, I really enjoy a good plot-even better when they are both highlighted. I think I may wait for the right time to read a book such as this, as the battle of the sexes has been a little too forefront in the news lately. (I need a break!) Lol :)

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Post by Lavidainlife » 29 Apr 2018, 15:05

SABRADLEY wrote:
29 Apr 2018, 12:21
Although I enjoy a character-driven novel, I really enjoy a good plot-even better when they are both highlighted. I think I may wait for the right time to read a book such as this, as the battle of the sexes has been a little too forefront in the news lately. (I need a break!) Lol :)
That's exactly what I was thinking! While these issues do need to be addressed, I feel like the media (in general) keeps focusing on the negative instead of how far we've come. I'm glad that there are thought-provoking novels like this, though, that help bring this type of stuff to light.

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Post by kandscreeley » 30 Apr 2018, 07:22

This book really isn't my type of story with the abuse that you mention and some sexual scenes. Still, I do like the premise behind the story. I do enjoy stories about different relationships as well as dancing. Thanks for the review, but I'm skipping this one for now.
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Post by Tonia Ganes » 30 Apr 2018, 23:16

Hi, I read 'In and Out of Step' last year and then went onto read the other books in that series. Personally, I thought the money well spent.

I am about to buy 'The Paris Seamstress' by Natasha Lester. Have you reviewed the novel yet? If you have, can you add the link to your review in reply so I can see your perspective on it before I spend my hard-earned dollars. I am tired of reading books that keep me at a distance and want to be immersed again in the reading experience.

Re your review for 'In and Out of Step'

I wholeheartedly agree with your 4-star rating and review. Although it is a character-driven novel, I too thought the plot was well thought out and riveting.

After I got into the story, I also became immersed in that world. It was all so real.

I thought Cassie and Mavis could become iconic female characters. Your thoughts? I still think of them as real people even though months have passed since I read the novel. Weren't Minna and George just a great older couple despite the issues between them?

I also loved the way that dance functioned as the backbone to the story line and the dance scenes.

I found the darker sections of the story were offset by the funny and tender moments. I felt such a range of emotions as I was reading. It was an unusual experience for me as in most reading experiences I am just a distant observer - interested in what will happen but unmoved.

I am also a Jane Austen fan because her novels are a deep exploration of people in the society they live in and how and why they behave as they do. Jane's novels aren't romances in the modern sense but about the position women find themselves in. I think Jane would be appalled that modern readers focus on the romance in her books and overlook the substance of her exploration of women and their concerns. For me, 'In and Out of Step' also had a similar substance. Your thoughts?

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Post by dragonet07 » 01 May 2018, 00:25

Tonia Ganes wrote:
30 Apr 2018, 23:16
Hi, I read 'In and Out of Step' last year and then went onto read the other books in that series. Personally, I thought the money well spent.

I am about to buy 'The Paris Seamstress' by Natasha Lester. Have you reviewed the novel yet? If you have, can you add the link to your review in reply so I can see your perspective on it before I spend my hard-earned dollars. I am tired of reading books that keep me at a distance and want to be immersed again in the reading experience.

Re your review for 'In and Out of Step'

I wholeheartedly agree with your 4-star rating and review. Although it is a character-driven novel, I too thought the plot was well thought out and riveting.

After I got into the story, I also became immersed in that world. It was all so real.

I thought Cassie and Mavis could become iconic female characters. Your thoughts? I still think of them as real people even though months have passed since I read the novel. Weren't Minna and George just a great older couple despite the issues between them?

I also loved the way that dance functioned as the backbone to the story line and the dance scenes.

I found the darker sections of the story were offset by the funny and tender moments. I felt such a range of emotions as I was reading. It was an unusual experience for me as in most reading experiences I am just a distant observer - interested in what will happen but unmoved.

I am also a Jane Austen fan because her novels are a deep exploration of people in the society they live in and how and why they behave as they do. Jane's novels aren't romances in the modern sense but about the position women find themselves in. I think Jane would be appalled that modern readers focus on the romance in her books and overlook the substance of her exploration of women and their concerns. For me, 'In and Out of Step' also had a similar substance. Your thoughts?
I wish I could help you with The Paris Seamstress, but I haven't read it.

In regards to Cassie and Mavis, I loved them. They both felt very real and like different people, rather than stereotypes or mirror images of each other. While I grew attached to Cassie and the outcome of her story, I have to say that I was very captivated and amused by Mavis's way of one-upping Gary, especially since he isn't her boyfriend; I've always questioned the strength of relationships where the people are competitive with each other, so it's refreshing to see a strong woman have a playful friendship with a man who isn't intimidated by her.

And Minna and George were a great couple, made ever more real by the fact that there were issues between them. A lot of their banter reminded me of my parents' relationship, although they certainly aren't the same kind of people as Minna and George. It's just that back-and-forth, often playful but sometimes over the line, that brought their relationship to life for me.

I haven't read Austen's novel (I know, I'm such a bad book worm!), but I do agree that In and Out of Step has elements of romance even though it mostly explores women and their concerns. I don't think that the romance element overrides the other explorations, although there's always the threat of it whenever there's a romance in any novel about a woman, or women. With the wide range of types of women, which is one of my favorite things about this book, I feel it's more about the ways and struggles of modern women.

You said you've read the others in the series, were they as good as the first?
The more that you read,
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Post by Tonia Ganes » 01 May 2018, 05:11

Thank you for replying so soon. When I received the email message that you had replied, I got lost when I logged on. This website is a bit confusing and not intuitive. Is there an explanation somewhere of how navigate through it?

In answer to you:
Like you, I also love the fact that there are a range of types of women in 'In and Out of Step', all of them real women too. You are right that the theme of change and the journeys that modern women face are central threads in the story line. I was very much struck by Knight's portrayal of the widening ripple effects of the consequences in some of the key events in the novel. As a reader, I got to see what people at the heart of different events saw and felt both inwardly as well as outwardly. e.g Samantha, Paul Selton

Yes, I have read the other two books in the series. I'm waiting impatiently for the fourth tile to be released.

I loved both 'Life Song' and 'Song Bird' - two very different stories in themselves and different from 'In and Out of Step'. Mavis becomes the central character in the next two books. Cassie has her place but is a minor character. I learnt what I wanted to know about her continuing life though.

I was emotionally involved again. I cried at times and felt like cheering at other moments. I really appreciated the way characters grew as people, even Lyle the roadie. Their choices and journeys were real and not cliche.

I fell in love with Gary; he is now one of my two favorite male fictional characters.

Somehow both stories made me feel empowered and optimistic about my own journey even though I've been through a hard time over the past few years.

I also better understand how hard it is for stars like Kylie Minogue and Katy Perry because of their high profiles.

A friend sent me a link to Knight's music. Her music lifts me like her novels do. I play 'Sunshine Days' a lot although I do love 'Masque' and 'Life Song'.

For my next read:
Can you recommend a great novel, one of substance by a contemporary author. One where I'll care about the characters.

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Post by joshfee77 » 03 May 2018, 05:17

Thanks for your review. Sounds like a well-written and edited character-driven novel. As an Australian myself, I would probably get plenty out of it, without having to stop and research as you did. Differences between the cultures of different countries can really stand out in fiction!

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Post by Tonia Ganes » 04 May 2018, 17:54

I didn't need to do any research when I was reading 'In and Out of Step'. Everything I needed was provided within the context of the story. There was a handy glossary as well.

I like reading stories about other places, cultures, and times. I loved 'In and Out of Step' because the characters were real people, not stereotypes or thinly developed. The place was real and the story was substantial. I actually wanted to go to Keimera. I looked up it on a map after I finished reading the novel. The place is fictional.

Like dragonet07- the official reviewer - I became immersed in the country. How lucky are you to live in a country like Australia!

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