Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Jeep Tour by Gail Ward Olmsted

4 Star

Jackie Sullivan was drawn to the red rocks of Sedona, Arizona after a failed marriage and an out-of-the-blue job loss. But did she move cross country to chase a dream or a dreamy tour guide? 
She had it all – the husband, the house, the job…but that’s in the past. A chance encounter with Rick, a sexy tour guide, gets her dreaming of a new life in Sedona. Jackie’s efforts to re-invent herself in the tight-knit desert community are, well … complicated. Sedona is terrific, but as the locals note, ‘it’s not for everyone.’ Does Rick want a relationship or just a friend with benefits? And in the case of her ex-husband, absence definitely makes the heart grow fonder! Is it her imagination, or is Rob more amazing than ever? 
With her 40th birthday looming, Jackie challenges herself to navigate a new path fueled by an unflagging sense of humor and lots of caffeine. Jackie has already had her happy; now she wants her ever after!

Sabrina-Kate - 4 Star

I was pleasantly surprised with this novel, though I have to say that the title and cover did not particularly appeal to me. The synopsis was enough to entice me and I am very glad that I did give this book a chance.

The main character, Jackie Sullivan, was someone I felt I could be friends with. Although she was almost 40 years old, she seemed somewhat lost in life. Shockingly, I found myself relating to her despite having quite different life circumstances. I guess the fact that she seemed to have things figured out but that she ended up realizing that she really didn’t, was something that struck a chord with me.

I found the concept of starting over completely, in a new city knowing almost no one, a very brave thing to do and wondered if I would also be capable of doing something so drastic to find happiness. I would like to think I would and so I liked that this book got me thinking!

The characters were so realistic that I felt myself caring about what happened to them and being frustrated with how some of them were acting at times. This is a sure sign of a good read when I find myself reacting as if they were indeed real people I knew. Another sign of a good book for me is the fact that I didn’t want to put the book down once I had picked it up which is something that I can say is not easy for me to accomplish.

Another thing that I found impressive was the way that Sedona, Arizona was brought to life through the subtle descriptions that were interspersed throughout. I have never had the urge to visit this state (or city) but I would definitely consider it now!

First time author Gail Olmsted will be one that I will keep on my list and it is no wonder that she was a finalist in Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel contest.

Thank you to the author for our review copy. All opinions are our own.

Connect with Gail Ward Olmsted:

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Sarah Rayner Stranded on a Desert Island

Please welcome Sarah Rayner, author of Getting Even, as she tackles our Desert Island Interview!

About Sarah:

My name is Sarah Rayner and I live in Brighton, England with my husband and stepson, Sebastian, aged 16, but I was born and raised in London. My first job was in fashion PR, but after a few months my boss took me on one side and told me I was ‘better at writing than wooing clients’, and suggested I become an advertising copywriter. I took the hint and worked for 25 years in various London agencies – experiences I drew on to write my latest novel, Getting Even, a tale of bonding and backstabbing set in England.

Connect with Sarah:
 Website      Facebook     Twitter    Goodreads

Sarah Rayner Stranded on a Desert Island

If you could only have one book with you, what would it be?

It had better be something practical, as whilst I’m pretty au fait with office politics, my desert-island-survival skills aren’t up to much. ‘A Guide To The Resources And Materials Available In The Wild And How To Use Them For Food, Shelter, Warmth And Navigation’ isn’t typically what I’d choose to have on my bedside table, but if I’m to make it beyond 24 hours without a bed, never mind a table, I think it would be a good idea!

What one luxury item would you want to be stranded with?

I suppose a maid is out of the question? I guess so. Hmmm, well if I’m going to have no fiction to hand, I’m going to have to use my imagination. In which case I’d better get writing: I’ll have a fountain pen with an endless supply of ink and paper, please.

What is the one practical item you would want to have with you to use?

A lighter. I’m not very patient (to put it mildly – though I don’t think anyone who’s worked in advertising ever is – it’s an industry driven by immediate gratification, after all) and having to rub two sticks together to make fire would drive me nuts.

Would you enjoy the solitude, even briefly, or would it drive you crazy?

I don’t mind solitude but I do mind physical discomfort (let’s just say camping and I are not great buddies). So, as long as I wasn’t cold or hungry or thirsty, I’d be OK, but given my lack of survival skills (see 1) this doesn’t seem highly likely. In other words, I’d go pretty crazy, but it wouldn’t be loneliness that caused it.

If you could be stranded with one other person, who would you want it to be?

Ah, that’s easy! My husband, Tom. And before you think I’ve gone soft, it’s because he’s very practical, so I’d have a far better chance of surviving with him than without. Plus he’s a chef and can cook up a storm, even if it would all be made from seaweed and creepy crawlies.

What modern technology would you miss the most?

My Babyliss Big Hair Styler – how on earth will I achieve that just blow-dried look otherwise?

What food or beverage would you miss the most?

Coffee. I so need a cup in the morning. I’ll have to rely on the bugs and snakes to get me out of bed instead!

How many days do you think you would cope without rescue?

A fortnight. The bugs, the lack of a blow dry and caffeine withdrawal would get to me after that.

What is the first thing you would do when rescued?

Ask for some lovely crispy French bread, a selection of cheeses and a very large glass of wine.

What would be your first Tweet or Facebook update upon your return?

I’d upload my holiday snaps. My friends will tell you – barely a day goes by when I don’t share a photograph. I take pictures of everything. Well, everything decent. (And, yeah, I know I don’t have a camera, but this is just a game, right?)

Getting Even

Revenge thas never been such fun. How would you feel if your best friend at work betrayed you? Was secretly having an affair with an influential colleague? Won a coveted promotion, then teamed you up with a mere junior, leaving you feeling completely demoted? What would you do? For Ivy there's no choice. The only person she has ever trusted, Orianna, has blown it big time. So there's only one way forward: revenge.

Ivy's campaign is brilliant, if horribly destructive, and she's determined to get even with the woman who has dared to cross her. But is Ivy really the innocent party? Or is she hiding secrets of her own?

Available at:
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Monday, September 29, 2014

Would You Rather... with Jessica Ashley Dafoe

Please welcome Jessica Ashley Dafoe, author of The Tantalizing Tale of a Bitter Sweetheart.

About Jessica Ashley Dafoe:

Jessica Ashley Dafoe resides in Toronto where she is an educator by day and a literary enthusiast and writer by night. She attained her BA in English Literature at The University of Ottawa and her B Ed at Brock and Queen’s University. 

When Jessica does not have her nose in a book or is not scribbling out her ideas for her newest tantalizing tales, she's most likely keeping busy trying out various exciting activities and delicious cuisine that the great city of Toronto has to offer or planning her next getaway to her immediate destination of choice. The travelling bug bites her often.

 A romantic comedy addict to the core, she enjoys all things silly, frivolous and emotionally endearing which is the reason she writes stories that encompass all of these qualities. 

Connect with Jessica:

Would You Rather... Jessica Ashley Dafoe

Chips, chocolate or cheese?

Oh! Most definitely the answer is CHOCOLATE!

Bridget Jones, Becky Bloomwood or Carrie Bradshaw?

All three have found their way into my heart. I honestly am unable to choose. Bridget is a hopeless disaster in so many ways that I cannot help but identify with her, seeing as I too am clumsy, say the wrong thing all too often and, in the past, have been known to choose the man all wrong for me, initially.   Becky is so endearing and a character written by one of my top literary inspirations, Sophie Kinsella. And Carrie, oh Carrie, living the life of a fashionista sex columnist, with only her designer clothes and shoes as a major asset, with such a passionate and persistent heart…I’ve just decided, I choose Carrie Bradshaw. Ignore my opening words to this question.

Wine, beer or vodka?

Wine, always wine. Red preferably and when I’m really ready to celebrate, a full-bodied Amarone is my first choice.

Camping or spa vacation?

I was raised alongside two older brothers so I often found myself being dragged along on camping excursions as a child and teen. I think I was duped into believing that I actually enjoyed it because now I am a spa going city girl to the core.  Sleeping in the middle of a thick forest with only a layer of nylon separating me from whatever wildlife may be lurking on the other side, is of no interest to me. I don’t care how pretty the night sky is.

Water or mountains?

Water, unless I’m on a ski holiday and then some mountains are needed.

Zombies or vampires?

Zombies! They are so much more diverse.

Dogs or cats?

Dogs. I, sadly, do not trust cats. One minute they’re curled up all cuddly on your lap, the next minute they’re hissing at you and digging their claws into your legs….maybe it’s just me.

Coke or Pepsi?

Neither. Ginger Ale. I’m a fan of the clear carbonated beverages

Coffee or tea?

COFFEE! It is not until I have had my first sip of this delightful legal stimulant each morning that my day can truly begin.

Dine out or take away?

Dine out.  I love to have a buzz of activity around me when I’m ingesting delicious grub. It usually encourages me to be more refined as opposed to inhaling my food in a heartbeat, the way I sometimes do at home.

High heels, sneakers or flip flops?

Kitten heels.

Physical Book or ebook?

I prefer a physical book, something that I can flip through and add to my bookshelf as if it’s a trophy of my accomplishments.

Paperback or Hardcover?

Paperback. Although hardcovers are often more visually appealing and durable, I dislike how the jacket constantly slips off…I also tend to prefer bending the cover back for an easier grip when reading on the subway train where there is standing room only.

Pen or pencil?

Pencil! My writing is impossibly neat in pencil and utterly disastrous in pen; pure chicken scratch.

Mad Men, Downton Abbey or Breaking Bad?

Downton Abbey. When I was a child, I wished I was the lady of an English manor. My mom forced me to watch PBS a lot as a child.

Drama or comedy?

Comedy. Always.

Twilight or Hunger Games?

Hunger Games, Katniss is one tough and determined character that is an incredible role model for young women. Truth be told, I never got on the whole vampire bandwagon.

Lipstick, lipgloss or chapstick?

Lipgloss. It helps me achieve the necessary level of moisture and gives a touch of vibrant colour as well; a perfect bridge between the others.

Facebook or Twiter?

I’m hopelessly hooked on Facebook, I’m afraid. Twitter has proven useful for book promotion but I must admit I have to push myself to Tweet and even visit the site. Visiting Facebook is as much a part of my morning routine as that first sip of glorious caffeine.

Plot your entire novel or fly by the seat of your pants?

I hate to admit it, but I absolutely fly by the seat of my pants. I have never been a planner. I just act. When I sat down to write what turned out to become The Tantalizing Tale of a Bitter Sweetheart, I had intended to create a semi-autobiographical confessional about dating life in Toronto. My initial pages had the title 101 Dates. I was going to incorporate my own voice and describe the torturous, awkward and sometimes pleasant dating experiences I have had in the past. Half way through the 2nd page, the voice stopped being my own and I scratched the whole idea, deleted all that I had written but carried on with the narrative voice that was overtaking my own. Portia was born! I must admit, although she is completely fictional, ‘excel spreadsheet guy’ is absolutely non-fiction. Yes, I had the pleasure of receiving those perplexing spreadsheets that made my jaw drop, then wrote him in to Portia’s dating history.

The Tantalizing Tale of a Bitter Sweetheart

Successful, lucky in love, taking the world by storm?.....not quite. Portia Delaney is down on her luck, disgruntled in a dead end, mind- numbing career with little prospects and is not even close to finding a stimulating romance to take her mind off her lack-luster situation. Her defeatist attitude and unmistakable idiosyncrasies don’t help much either. 

But with rock bottom comes a choice, lie down and enjoy the cold and barren ground beneath, or climb that ladder of success to the top. Portia finally sets out to do just that. With a fantastic group of friends and a bit of fateful circumstance on her side, she begins her trek up and out of the despair filled trenches. But Portia soon finds out that with success, often comes hardships and unwelcome competition.

Available at:

Mating For Life by Marissa Stapley

4 Star

Former folk singer Helen Sear was a feminist wild child who proudly disdained monogamy, raising three daughters—each by a different father—largely on her own. Now in her sixties, Helen has fallen in love with a traditional man who desperately wants to marry her. And while she fears losing him, she’s equally afraid of abandoning everything she’s ever stood for if she goes through with it.

Meanwhile, Helen’s youngest daughter, Liane, is in the heady early days of a relationship with her soul mate. But he has an ex-wife and two kids, and her new role as a “step-something” doesn’t come with an instruction manual. Ilsa, an artist, has put her bohemian past behind her and is fervently hoping her second marriage will stick. Yet her world feels like it is slowly shrinking, and her painting is suffering as a result—and she realizes she may need to break free again, even if it means disrupting the lives of her two young children. And then there’s Fiona, the eldest sister, who has worked tirelessly to make her world pristine, yet who still doesn’t feel at peace. When she discovers her husband has been harboring a huge secret, Fiona loses her tenuous grip on happiness and is forced to face some truths about herself that she’d rather keep buried.

Amazon Barnes & Noble Kindle Kobo Nook

Kathryn - 4 Star

After so many good reviews about this novel I don’t think I could possibly have read it and not found it just as engaging.  Because I could picture everything Stapley was writing about it took away some of that imagination thing that can make your mind wander off and allowed me to focus on the characters presented in the novel.  Usually I like to make up my own world when reading but I got a bit of a thrill knowing some of the places the author used.

Quite apart from the feeling of contentment I felt reading a novel set somewhere familiar-the women in Mating for Life slowly got inside my head.  I was prepared to relate to one or two of them and find the others harder to commiserate with but I actually took a piece of each of them and made them part of one experience. I think I may have melded them into one person.  With any family comes tricky relationships and when people are close they don’t always bring out the best in each other.  The fact that the mother and daughters had drifted apart made it the only way for them to come back together.  Helen was a most interesting character- full of life and vigour but it seemed that she made some personal choices in her life that affected her daughters’ feelings of security. As these choices came to light it made me appreciate her more- too often one becomes engrossed entirely in the lives of our children and, though her choices wouldn’t have always been mine, I found her fascinating to read about.  Each of the daughters was so unique I could see a novel centering round each of them as stand-alone books. They all had their demons and decisions to make and relationships to salvage-there was a lot of tension with each one and I often wanted to know more.

Overall though, despite the tension and tenuous threads holding the family together, the love for each other came through and made Mating for Life a novel with strong female voices that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Thank you to Simon and Schuster for our review copy. All opinions are our own.

Connect with Marissa Stapley:
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Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Last Time I Saw You by Eleanor Moran

2 Star

When Olivia Berrington gets the call to tell her that her best friend from university has been killed in a car crash in New York, her life is turned upside down. Her relationship with Sally was an exhilarating roller coaster, until a shocking betrayal drove them apart. But if Sally had really turned her back, why is her little girl named Olivia?

As questions mount about the fatal accident, Olivia is forced to go back and unravel her untangled history. But as Sally's secrets start to spill out, Olivia's left asking herself if the past is best kept buried.

Amazon Barnes & Noble Kindle Kobo Nook

Kaley - 2 Star

Do you ever feel like you may have enjoyed a book more had you read it at a different time? I felt like that a little bit with Eleanor Moran's The Last Time I Saw You. It took forever for me to read it and I really just wanted to find out what happened but I wonder if the timing was off for me and this book. 

I think I've realized I don't like the novels that tease over and over again that something went wrong in the past and it could explain the problems in the present. Especially if it's not done well. I knew something had gone horribly wrong in Olivia and Sally's friendship while they were still in university but it seemed to take forever to explain what the problem was. The way it was written made me want to skim the rest of the book just to find out what had happened. Then when I got to the revelations...there wasn't any drama to it. So, waiting to find out what had happened was more of an annoyance than anything else. Plus, I didn't feel like any of the revelations were really all that surprising.

I think my other problem with this novel is that I felt zero connection with any of the characters. I know having likeable characters isn't necessary (though it's a personal preference of mine) but I need to feel something for the characters. Olivia was utterly forgettable and that made me sad. I want the characters and story to stay with me and that just doesn't seem to be an option with this book.

I wish I had enjoyed The Last Time I Saw You more than I did. I expected a dramatic tale of friendship from Eleanor Moran's novel and what I got left me wanting more. The conclusions weren't satisfying and the characters didn't keep my interest. It might be loved by some people but I just wasn't one of them.

Thank you to the author for our review copy. All opinions are our own.

Connect with Eleanor Moran:
Website      Facebook      Twitter     Goodreads

Karen Jennings Stranded on a Desert Island!

Please welcome Karen Jennings, author of Away From The Dead, as she tackles our Desert Island Interview!

About Karen:

Karen Jennings is a wonderful story writer. In just a few sentences she is able to paint a picture of a community, frame a life, and to make you see and even almost smell a place.

Many of the stories have been published in magazines or anthologies. From Dark won the Africa Region prize in the Commonwealth Short Story Competition 2010 and The Shark won the English section of the Maskew Miller Longman short story competition in 2009.

Connect with Karen Jennings:

Karen Jennnings Stranded on a Desert Island

If you could only have one book with you, what would it be?

It may sound contrived, but I would have to choose the Complete Works of Shakespeare. It would last ages… and you could act out the different parts from the plays with seashells and coconuts.

What one luxury item would you want to be stranded with?

Sunscreen. I have very fair skin. I go bright pink as soon as the sun even touches me for a second.

What is the one practical item you would want to have with you to use?

Hairbrush! I have wild, wild hair that twists into knots at the drop of a hat. I want to look human when I am rescued, not like a sasquatch!

Would you enjoy the solitude, even briefly, or would it drive you crazy?
I am a loner by nature, so I would probably be fine for a week or two. After that I would get sad.

If you could be stranded with one other person, who would you want it to be?

That has to be a trick question! Because what kind of a person am I if I don’t say that I choose my fiancĂ©?

What modern technology would you miss the most?

Kettle. I love tea.

What food or beverage would you miss the most?

As I said above, I love tea. Rooibos tea to be specific. I cannot live without it.

How many days do you think you would cope without rescue?

About a month. After that I will have gone through all of Shakespeare’s plays and have used up my sunscreen. My hairbrush will probably be full of sand by then too.

What is the first thing you would do when rescued?

Have a shower.

What would be your first Tweet or Facebook update upon your return?

“Life’s too short for Facebook, so I am closing my account. If you want to hear about my desert island adventures, take me out to tea instead!”

Away From The Dead

Together the stories highlight facets of African society and in particular South Africa. Karen Jennings has a touching way of writing about the lives of the underdogs. The distinctions between the different layers in society are beautifully captured.

From Dark is a rallying call to remember that illegal mining causes the deaths of hundreds every year.  Zama-zamas (Zulu for ‘chancers’) live underground for months at a time, dying in police raids, fires, cave-ins and poor conditions.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Would You Rather with Helen Wan

Please welcome Helen Wan, author of The Partner Track.

About Helen Wan:

HELEN WAN was Associate General Counsel at the Time Inc. division of Time Warner Inc. Before that, she practiced corporate law and media law at law firms in New York. Born in California and raised near Washington, D.C., Wan is a graduate of Amherst College and the University of Virginia School of Law. Her essays and reviews of fiction have been published in The Washington Post and elsewhere. She lives in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, with her husband and son.

Connect with Helen:

Would You Rather... Helen Wan

1. Chips, chocolate or cheese?

Yes, please.

2. Bridget Jones, Becky Bloomwood or Carrie Bradshaw?

I enjoy all three, but I’d say Bridget is the most lovably imperfect.  

3. Wine, beer or vodka?

A glass of wine, ideally with dinner dishes loaded, toddler asleep, feet up, and nothing (at least nothing pressing) left on that day’s agenda.

4. Camping or spa vacation?

Oh my goodness, definitely spa. When you’re finally getting a few precious days off, why live worse than you normally do?

5. Water or mountains?

Water.  The sound of it is so peaceful and reassuring. 

6. Zombies or vampires?

Definitely vampires.  Zombies are so vapid.  I prefer the brooding intellect of the vampire set.

7. Dogs or cats?

I love all animals, but am partial to Labradors and we’ll probably end up getting a Lab pup for our toddler son at some point (but don’t let him read this and hold me to it).

8. Coke or Pepsi?

?  Diet Coke.  Lots of it.  It got me through many late nights of writing my novel.

9. Coffee or tea?

Coffee in the morning, tea in the afternoon.  Caffeine and I are really close chums.

10. Dine out or take away?

 Over the past year and a half, take-away.  (See above re: having a toddler.)

11. High heels, sneakers or flip flops?

Lately, more flip-flops, since I recently left my legal career in order to work full time on finishing my second novel.  I draw the line at sneakers as my day-to-day, just-walking-around shoes.

12. Physical Book or ebook?

Oh, definitely still printed-and-bound books.  Nerdily, I just love the smell of a new paperback.  It’s intoxicating.  In my opinion the printed book is still the best content delivery technology ever invented.

13. Paperback or Hardcover?

Paperback!  I bring at least three with me on flights. The last time I went through airport security, the TSA guy laughed at me. He actually made fun of how many paperback novels I had in my carry-on. “Um, you’ve heard of those Kindle things, right?” 

14. Pen or pencil?

Pencil.  I’m not perfect.  I make mistakes.

15. Mad Men, Downton Abbey or Breaking Bad?

Oh, they are all so good!  But I actually just watched three episodes of Downton back to back just this past Saturday, so I have to pick that.

16. Drama or comedy?

Sometimes there really isn’t a discernible difference.  A good story that makes me feel and wonder and think is a good story, period.

17. Twilight or Hunger Games?

Hunger Games. That Katniss Everdeen kicks ass, doesn’t let anyone get in her way, and doesn’t spend a lot of time worrying about what anyone thinks of her whom she doesn’t respect.  I think we need to see more strong female leads like this in our stories.

18. Lipstick, lipgloss or chapstick?

NARS lipstick in Afghan Red.  It’s been my go-to shade forever.  I’m kind of boring that way.

19. Facebook or Twitter?

Facebook for catching up with old classmates and cute baby pictures.  Twitter for news and articles.

20. Plot your entire novel or fly by the seat of your pants?

 Ha. Definitely flew by the seat of my pants!  That’s why it only took me twelve years to complete my first book.  Having a full-time law job probably didn’t help, either.  But I’ve promised my agent this second novel won’t take so long.  I’m having a lot of fun with it!  This one isn’t a direct sequel to THE PARTNER TRACK, but it does tackle similar themes, like women’s complicated relationship with ambition, and also features strong, smart women who are finding ways to redefine their own success.

The Partner Track

Ingrid Yung’s life is full of firsts. A first-generation Chinese American, the first lawyer in her family, she’s about to collect the holy grail of "firsts" and become the first minority woman to make partner at the venerable old law firm Parsons Valentine & Hunt.

Ingrid has perfected the art of "passing" and seamlessly blends into the old-boy corporate culture. She gamely banters in the corporate cafeteria, plays in the firm softball league, and earnestly racks up her billable hours. But when an offensive incident at the summer outing threatens the firm’s reputation, Ingrid’s outsider status is suddenly thrown into sharp relief. Scrambling to do damage control, Parsons Valentine announces a new Diversity and Inclusion Initiative, commanding Ingrid to spearhead the effort. Only she’s about to close an enormous transaction that was to be her final step in securing partnership.

For the first time, Ingrid must question her place in the firm. Pitted against her colleagues, including her golden-boy boyfriend, Ingrid begins to wonder whether the prestige of partnership is worth breaching her ethics. But can she risk throwing away the American dream that is finally within her reach?


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