Friday, July 20, 2018

The Summer of New Beginnings by Bette Lee Crosby

 2 Star

Aspiring journalist Meghan Briggs has always been the responsible one in the family. So when her father passes away unexpectedly, leaving behind his at-risk business, she steps up to save his legacy—even if that means putting her own dreams on hold.

Tracy couldn’t be more different from her sister. She’s always been the rebellious type, without much direction in life. But in the wake of her latest romantic disaster, she finds herself moving back home as a single mother.

As Tracy experiences the difficulties of new motherhood, Meghan faces her own struggle: trying not to fall for the stray puppy she rescued. This is no time for attachments—not to the adorable “Sox,” whose owner is bound to turn up any day, and certainly not to the handsome new vet in town. But as the summer unfolds, she discovers that, like Sox, she may need rescuing, too.

As both sisters navigate unexpected challenges and exciting new relationships, they’ll find that putting the past to rest can make way for beautiful new beginnings. 




Kathryn - 2 Star

I enjoy this author's connection with her characters and fully feel that she's invested in their lives.  The Summer of New Beginnings includes two daughters and their mother as the sources for the story and daughter Meghan is the main voice.  I liked though, that despite being secondary characters, the mother and Tracy both were clear in their positions and challenges.  

I was inspired by Tracy when she made the decision to take her life into her own hands.  She needed to be in control to be able to help her young son.  I also enjoyed their mother, she is a strong personality but not overbearing (not completely at any rate!). 

What wasn't so great for me was Meghan.  I didn't really get to know her and felt her attachment to her father a little overwhelming for her plot lines.  She seemed so intently devoted to carrying on his business and I never really understood why there was the need to continue it, unless it was financial?  It wasn't clear why she needed to persevere.  I grasped that she wanted to pursue his legacy but not why she felt such a responsibility.  I suppose this is the heart of why I didn't connect with Meghan, I liked her I just didn't fully understand her.

It was a fun read but I didn't connect as much as I have done in the past with this author.


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

Connect with Bette Lee Crosby:


Tuesday, June 26, 2018

If we had known by Elise Juska

5 Star

One August afternoon, as single mother Maggie Daley prepares to send her only child off to college, their world is shattered by news of a mass shooting at the local mall in rural Maine. As reports and updates about the tragedy begin to roll in, Maggie, an English professor, is further stunned to learn that the gunman had been a student of hers. Nathan Dugan was an awkward, complicated young man whose quiet presence in her classroom had faded from her memory-but not, it seems, the memories of his classmates.

When a viral blog post hints at the existence of a dark, violence-tinged essay Nathan had written during Maggie's freshman comp seminar, Maggie soon finds herself at the center of a heated national controversy. Could the overlooked essay have offered critical red flags that might have warned of, or even prevented, the murders to come? As the media storm grows around her, Maggie makes a series of desperate choices that threaten to destroy not just the personal and professional lives she's worked so hard to build, but-more important-the happiness and safety of her sensitive daughter, Anna.




Sabrina-Kate - 5 Star

This was one of my favorite books of this year and maybe one of my favorite books ever.

I loved it.

A book set in modern times, I can picture every single thing that happened in this book actually happening in real life. (Which is partly what I love about books but....also something that kind of scared me given the context of this story.) The book actually drew me in so deeply that I spent quite a few days re-living it and thinking about it after finishing it. And it didn't take me long to race through the pages; one of the most compelling stories that I could just not put down.

Maggie reminded me so much of myself in many ways. I am sure that I may have second thoughts and doubt myself should I be tangled up in a story like this, just as she was. I felt equally bad for her and frustrated at times,  however, I know that life is hectic and can imagine myself missing something possibly important.

Elise Juska is such a master story teller and this recounting of a terribly tragic and unbearably modern event helped bring home to me just how terrible it really is by humanizing the experience in the most prolific way I can imagine. 

If you pick up one book this year that you expect to make you reflect and may even change your thoughts, this may very bell be the one.


Thank you to Grand Central Publishing for our review copy.  All opinions are our own.

Connect with Elisa Juska:
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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The Undercover Mother by Emma Robinson

3 Star

Jenny has too much on her plate: literally – she’s only pregnant with one child but she’s already eating for three. Not to mention trying to juggle her future life with a baby, a nightmare boss, a know-it-all sister, and a bizarrely laid back husband. 
She used to be famous for her ‘Single Girl About Town’ journalism. But not only is she bored of parties, she also hasn’t been single for years, and is now 8½ months pregnant. 
So when her boss hands her column to a younger colleague, Jenny panics and proposes instead writing about being a clueless new mum. Surely people will find her new friendship group fascinating? Even if the only thing they have in common is that they all had sex around the same time 9 months ago... 
Like – what’s the deal with scary Gail’s mystery husband? How is posh mum Antonia already out drinking when Jenny can barely make a cup of tea? Why isn’t sweet-natured Ruth answering any phone calls? 

And if her readers aren’t quite hooked yet, maybe Jenny will just have to be more liberal with the truth. After all, none of the other mums will read it… will they? 




Kathryn - 3 Star

This book was definitely funny, laugh out loud kind of funny at times and laughing/crying in commiseration at times too.  I have conveniently forgotten how utterly confusing that first year is and this book does indeed cover it.  However it's not really about motherhood as much as it's about the bond of motherhood-between women. How the very fact that you have birth around the same time as someone else automatically links you in this same period of confusion.

I liked the novel because of the women and how they were all different types of mothers.  What I didn't quite get on board with was the rest of the plot. I found Jenny's job quest a bit frustrating and her obsession to remain on the magazine in the same capacity a bit far fetched.  While I could appreciate that she wasn't quite ready to give up her old self she didn't seem to have any comprehension of how much things were really going to change having had a child.  I also wish that the blog she had been writing had been more humorous and heartfelt rather than looking for the sensationalistic approach.  I think that Jenny herself eventually realized that her approach wasn't quite right but that may be me projecting my age on her new mum self. 

The author though did keep me engaged and I enjoyed the writing and all the characters.  I was just hoping for a tiny bit more.  But don't let me put you off the funny parts are really funny and the author's real-life blog is fantastic!


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

Connect with Emma Robinson:
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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Broken Girls by Simone St.James

4 Star

Vermont, 1950. There's a place for the girls whom no one wants--the troublemakers, the illegitimate, the too smart for their own good. It's called Idlewild Hall. And in the small town where it's located, there are rumors that the boarding school is haunted. Four roommates bond over their whispered fears, their budding friendship blossoming--until one of them mysteriously disappears. . . .

Vermont, 2014. As much as she's tried, journalist Fiona Sheridan cannot stop revisiting the events surrounding her older sister's death. Twenty years ago, her body was found lying in the overgrown fields near the ruins of Idlewild Hall. And though her sister's boyfriend was tried and convicted of murder, Fiona can't shake the suspicion that something was never right about the case.

When Fiona discovers that Idlewild Hall is being restored by an anonymous benefactor, she decides to write a story about it. But a shocking discovery during the renovations will link the loss of her sister to secrets that were meant to stay hidden in the past--and a voice that won't be silenced. . . .




Sabrina-Kate - 4 Star

I love books that are written with a story told alternating between past and present as I find it helps give a complete picture of a story- The Broken Girls was written in that style. I also have a special love of Vermont having been there many times and luckily counting many people there as friends.

I can definitely picture the rural fields and school as part of the picture that was painted in this story and very much liked the creepy tale woven by Simone St. James. It still shocks me though to realize that people really did ostracize others for so many reasons back in the not so distant past and the girls who loved at Idlewild Hall were no exception. I felt so sad for them and the lives they had to live because of society and felt a particular sadness for Fiona as her demons from the past were certainly continuing to haunt her.

A story that any fan of suspense will love, I look forward to discovering more of this author`s writing  especially as I understand she is a fellow Canadian.


Thank you to Penguin Random House for our review copy.  All opinions are our own.

Connect with Simone St. James:
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Thursday, June 7, 2018

Somebody's Daughter by Rochelle B. Weinstein

2.5 Star

Emma and Bobby Ross enjoy a charmed life on the shores of Miami Beach. They are a model family with a successful business, an uncomplicated marriage, and two blessedly typical twin daughters, Zoe and Lily. They are established members of a tight-knit community.

Then, on the night of the girls’ fifteenth birthday party, they learn of Zoe’s heartbreaking mistake—a private and humiliating indiscretion that goes viral and thrusts her and her family into the center of a shocking public scandal.

As the family’s core is shattered by disgrace, judgment, and retribution, the fallout takes its toll. But for Emma, the shame runs deeper. Her daughter’s reckless behavior has stirred memories of her own secrets that could break a marriage, a family, and friendships forever. 




Kathryn- 2.5 Star


I have very mixed feelings about this read.  So much of the subject matter was difficult to tackle though so I do appreciate the author's attempt at bringing light to our changing times.

I found the entire issue of Zoe's act with her friend/boyfriend a non issue but it was made into a big shameful thing by not only the online exposure but her parents reactions.  At least this was the way I felt.  She is 14 years old and like it or not this is the age of experimentation and what happened should not be shameful.  It seems like her mother was theoretically understanding of this but also had a deep rooted issue about teen sexuality of her own and so was battling her own history.  Her father is in denial.  It bothered me a lot that there seemed to be a lack of maturity from the adults about how to handle their daughter's emerging sexuality.

The main issue of the novel is probably the fact that someone exposed this private moment for not only the rest of their school peers to see but  then the entire world via YouTube.  I'm not sure how I feel about this.  It's difficult to put yourself at that age in this era of technology and really know how one would feel at 14.   The video taker should not have shared with anyone or filmed in the first place and I believe there should be consequences for this.  I was really happy with the legal passages in this book that tried to sort out each person's rights.  I felt this was tackled well.

Unfortunately at no point did I like the father, either in the present or in the past which really distracted me from the topic at hand.  I felt the mother gave him a free pass to keep emotionally abusing their daughter and that she should have taken the kids and left when he obviously couldn't handle himself.  Because of my feelings toward the father I had a hard time appreciating their surroundings and the subject matter. This was unfortunate because I found the concept of the hotel life fascinating and the emotional charged situation topical and important.

Overall I finished the book with some satisfaction of the outcome but a bit disappointed because with more fatherly support I felt more time could have been spent writing about the social impact on the girls and less about the parents.  I wanted to give this book a higher rating because it's an important topic.


Thank you to Lake Union Publishing for our review copy.  All opinions are our own.

Connect with Rochelle B. Weinstein:
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Friday, June 1, 2018

Wallis in Love by Andrew Morton

3 Star

"You have no idea how hard it is to live out a great romance." -Wallis Simpson

Before she became known as the woman who enticed a king from his throne and birthright, Bessie Wallis Warfield was a prudish and particular girl from Baltimore. At turns imaginative, ambitious, and spoiled, Wallis's first words as recalled by her family were "me, me." From that young age, she was in want of nothing but stability, status, and social acceptance as she fought to climb the social ladder and take her place in London society. As irony would have it, she would gain the love and devotion of a king, but only at the cost of his throne and her reputation.
In WALLIS IN LOVE, acclaimed biographer Andrew Morton offers a fresh portrait of Wallis Simpson in all her vibrancy and brazenness as she transformed from a hard-nosed gold-digger to charming chatelaine. Using diary entries, letters, and other never-before-seen records, Morton takes us through Wallis's romantic adventures in Washington, China, and her entrance into the strange wonderland that is London society. During her journey, we meet an extraordinary array of characters, many of whom smoothed the way for her dalliance with the king of England, Edward VIII.




Kathryn - 3 Star

Full disclosure... the knowledge I had about Wallis Simpson before reading this book could have fit on a post-it and came mostly from my grandmother's mutterings about her leading the king astray.  Now my grandmother was generally a very open minded and supportive woman but her opinion about Wallis was pretty clear to me as a child so I was determined to make up my own mind reading this "untold" story by Andrew Morton.

I learnt a lot about Wallis Simpson from her childhood to her younger self and older self, when she was Duchess of Windsor, but I don't really feel like I know her (the human being) any better than before and I certainly don't feel as if I like her.  Edward was clearly a man of with many troubles and he appears to have attached himself on to Wallis and used her as a life raft.  She didn't object until it became more like an anchor.

I was also completely confused a lot of the read and had to force myself not to give up at times. There were many, many (many) people to try and keep track of and most of them had multiple names. There didn't appear to be much flow to the "story" but was more a series of facts, places and names in some sort of chronological order.  If you are a Simpson historian then this will likely not provide any "news" to you and if you are a newbie like me then the slog may not be worth it- but in the end I feel able to at least have my own opinion on how things came to be.


Thank you to Grand Central Publishing for our review copy.  All opinions are our own.


Connect with Andrew Morton:



Saturday, May 26, 2018

The Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth

5 Star

The small suburb of Pleasant Court lives up to its name. It's the kind of place where everyone knows their neighbours, and children play in the street.

Isabelle Heatherington doesn't fit into this picture of family paradise. Husbandless and childless, she soon catches the attention of three Pleasant Court mothers.

But Ange, Fran and Essie have their own secrets to hide. Like the reason behind Ange's compulsion to control every aspect of her life. Or why Fran won't let her sweet, gentle husband near her new baby. Or why, three years ago, Essie took her daughter to the park - and returned home without her.

As their obsession with their new neighbour grows, the secrets of these three women begin to spread - and they'll soon find out that when you look at something too closely, you see things you never wanted to see.




Kathryn - 5 Star

I'm a big fan of Sally Hepworth. Her novels are usually intricately woven stories with several main characters and The Family Next Door was exactly what I was hoping for.  It wasn't fast paced and it took a long time to come to a peak but I was hooked from the first few pages. 

Likely being a mother and a spouse allowed me to place myself in each woman's shoes a little bit more easily.   I could relate to each family in one way or another and was intrigued by the concept that you don't really know what's going on behind a neighbour's curtain.  Hepworth writes in a way that gives the women the central voice but she also manages to convey the male position as well. Though not the focus she doesn't leave us guessing.

Most interesting though was that I didn't see the end coming at all. I was entirely surprised by the twists at the end...shocked even that I hadn't seen it coming.  Hepworth writes books that people can relate too and then throws in a curve-ball which will make you think, really think.


Thank you to St.Martin's Press for our review copy.  All opinions are our own.

Connect with Sally Hepworth:


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