Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Would You Rather with... Lisa Loomis

Please welcome Lisa Loomis, author of A Horse Named Joe.

About Lisa:

Lisa Loomis writes because she loves to. Her stories are about the human condition: love, life, and everything in between (including sex, drugs, alcohol, and things just crazy enough to be true). Her stories are not predictable, conventional, or lacking in the messiness of life. She tries to extract the real emotion in any given situation in her characters, with a touch of humor.

Lisa Loomis was born in Oakland California and raised in San Jose until she was a sophomore in high school. Her father then took a job in the San Diego area where he moved the family to Escondido, California (or hickville as she called it). She finished high school at San Pasqual High then went to junior college at Palomar JC, ultimately graduating from San Diego State University with a BS in Finance.

Finding more BS than Finance with the financial meltdown in 2008 she went back to her passion of writing. See all her books on Amazon, and coming to Barnes & Noble and Smashwords in April 2014.

She now lives and writes in Park City, Utah.

Connect with Lisa:
Website     Facebook      Twitter   Goodreads

Would You Rather... with Lisa Loomis

Chips, chocolate or cheese? 

Chips…..the salt.

Bridget Jones, Becky Bloomwood or Carrie Bradshaw? 

Carrie Bradshaw….a little rebel is good.

Wine, beer or vodka? 

All three, but chardonnay is a fav.

Camping or spa vacation?

If someone else was paying, spa.

Water or Mountains?

Both, live in the mountains, but love the beach

Zombies or Vampires?


Dogs or Cats?


Coke or Pepsi?

Pepsi, but in Utah you mostly find Coke products in restaurants.

Coffee or tea?

Coffee, a kick start in the morning.

Dine out or take away?

Dine out

High heels, sneakers or flip flops

Flip-flops—love the comfort factor.

Physical book or ebook?

Physical, old fashioned I guess.

Paperback or Hardcover?


Pen or Pencil?


Mad Men, Downton Abbey or Breaking Bad

 Breaking Bad.

Drama or comedy?

Comedy, but not slapstick.

Twilight or Hunger Games? 

Couldn’t tell you.

Lipstick, lipgloss or chapstick? 


Facebook or Twitter

More FB, I like seeing friends comments and photos

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

Fly by the seat of my pants. My characters have a way of evolving that I don’t always see from the start.

A Horse Named Joe

Two years after the financial meltdown of 2008 Ronie Dugan's life continues to unravel. Seeking clarity she escapes to a small island in the Bahamas. Can the island, a horse named Joe, and a shy Bahamian dock master, help her to see life differently?

A Chick lit novel set on the small island of Green Turtle Cay, Abacos.

Bahamian dialect dictionary at the end of the book.

Available at:
Kindle Nook

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Country Loving by Cathy Woodman

4.5 Star

Romance blossoms between Talyton St George's newest farmer and her local vet. 

Successful city accountant Stevie receives two surprises in one week: a proposal of marriage from her boyfriend Nick and a phone call begging her to return to the family farm in Devon to help out after her father has a stroke.

But what she thought would be a long weekend in the country turns into much longer as she struggles to bring order to her father's rundown farm. Finally, she decides to give up her job -- and her fiance -- and take on the farm permanently. She dreams of turning it into a tourist attraction, never realising it would be so difficult. But with the help of many of Talyton St George's local residents, and the locum vet Leon, she is starting to make progress. Until a life-changing complication throws all her plans into disarray, and destroys her growing romance with Leon.

Kathryn - 4.5 Star

Country Loving was not at all what I was expecting from the cover art- I had predicted a bit of a slow paced country village tale with simple characters that didn’t do much of anything but I was only half right. While the setting is simple and the tale of girl meets boy is common I found the people of Talyton St George to be intriguing and their interactions refreshing. I suppose it’s a modern day farming community with some of the old traditions mixed in what with the “lady farmers” and modern way of life!

Cathy Woodman’s heroine, Stevie, is awfully feisty in a lot of ways, particularly in regards to her feelings about the family farm. Her plans for a petting zoo, to bring Nettlebed farm back to life, were undertaken with strength and conviction that she was on the right path.  I liked her immediately but found her lack of confidence with the attraction to the local vet to be a bit out of character. I suppose her being vulnerable in love was due to her recent breakup but it didn’t fit for me with the woman tackling her father’s failing farm.

My heart was warmed by farm manager Cecil, his wife and the friends who came to help Stevie. I even had a bit of a soft spot for her curmudgeonly father (who really could have been a bit nicer to his daughter!). Woodman also brought in some nosey and/or grumpy neighbours to round out the idea of village life.  

But I was most stuck into the farm life, the mud, the cows and the whole farming thing. Country Loving has that simple story line but doesn’t miss out on giving us a good feel for the hard work and reward of being a farmer. I come from a long line of cow people (according to my mother) and have a cousin who recently retired from caring for a herd in Buckinghamshire.  We are always pulling over on trips to look at cows and I appreciated Woodman’s knowledge of farming peppered throughout the novel – without actually having to be stuck in the pile of cow manure myself.

I’d definitely pick up another novel by Cathy Woodman!

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

Connect with Cathy Woodman:

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Art of Arranging Flowers by Lynne Branard

3 Star

Ruby Jewell knows flowers. In her twenty years as a florist she has stood behind the counter at the Flower Shoppe with her faithful dog, Clementine, resting at her feet. A customer can walk in, and with just a glance or a few words, Ruby can throw together the perfect arrangement for any occasion.

Whether intended to rekindle a romance, mark a celebration, offer sympathy, or heal a broken heart, her expressive floral designs mark the moments and milestones in the lives of her neighbors. It’s as though she knows just what they want to say, just what they need.

Yet Ruby’s own heart’s desires have gone ignored since the death of her beloved sister. It will take an invitation from a man who’s flown to the moon, the arrival of a unique little boy, and concern from a charming veterinarian to reawaken her wounded spirit. Any life can be derailed, but the healing power of community can put it right again.

Sabrina-Kate - 3 Star

The Art of Arranging Flowers had an interesting premise but unfortunately even though I found it very easy to read, I did not love the book. The writer has a great writing style and yet it did not captivate or interest me like I had hoped (despite the fact that I was quite interested in the idea of someone being able to understand exactly what you needed just by looking at you or even without looking at you).

The story line was set in a small town and had that almost predictable progression that made it an easy read yet this disappointed me as I was hoping for something more interesting to happen. I did find that the main character talked a lot more about flowers than the other characters in the book which seemed a bit strange to me at first but perhaps it was entirely the point as the character was supposed to be a damaged, closed off person. 

The Art of Arranging Flowers was not without its charms and had a lot of sweet moments, but something about it just did not work for me as I felt that it lacked in realism and true actions.

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

Connect with Lynne Branard:

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The French for Always by Fiona Valpy

3.5 Star

Leaving the grey skies of home behind to transform a crumbling French Château into a boutique wedding venue is a huge leap of faith for Sara. She and fiancé Gavin sink their life savings into the beautiful Château Bellevue – set under blue skies and surrounded by vineyards in the heart of Bordeaux.

After months of hard work, the dream starts to become a reality – until Gavin walks out halfway through their first season. Overnight, Sara is left very much alone with the prospect of losing everything.

With her own heart breaking, Sara has five weddings before the end of the season to
turn the business around and rescue her dreams. With the help of the locals and a little courage can she save Château Bellevue before the summer is over?

Kathryn - 3.5 Star

I read Fiona Valpy’s The French for Love last fall and was enchanted by its’ sweet nature so I was pleased that The French for Always was equally alluring.  I think I’ve read a few other novels set in rural France recently so perhaps I’m yearning for some summer cicada sounds and that dry heat I remember from childhood times in Provence. Regardless of my own dreaminess surrounding this area of the world I think that Valpy’s novels will charm those looking for a summer read to warm the heart.

As I felt with her previous novel I wasn’t astounded by the twists and turns of the plot (although I was a bit taken aback by the abrupt departure of chateau’s co-owner within the first couple of chapters) but I felt that the author had a good grasp for creating people who are likeable and relate-able. I was sympathetic towards them and yet they were not soppy or downtrodden.

My heart was pulling for Sara to be able to keep her chateau wedding venue- she was so relaxed and calm with all of her various wedding parties and her demeanor made sure that each nuptial was executed without a hitch (despite various interferences and her own troubles).  I think I fell in love with her home, her business and Sara herself a little more as each wedding was completed and I appreciated all the little details about the wedding parties that Valpy included.  She packed a lot of description into few words and it was felt across the pages.  Sara’s captivating staff made me smile many time also and I was silently cheering her on with her love interest- he was obviously a much more compatible man for our leading lady and the cameo appearances of some of the characters from The French for Love were a very nice addition, so lovely to meet some people again (yes, I know they’re fictional- but such is the nature of a novel as sweet as this that you want them to be real).

I do love Fiona Valpy’s writing and her ability to bring across the natural surroundings without it seeming heavy handed- a delightful summer read!

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

Connect with Fiona Valpy:

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Goodnight June by Sarah Jio

4 Star

Goodnight Moon is an adored childhood classic, but its real origins are lost to history. In Goodnight June, Sarah Jio offers a suspenseful and heartfelt take on how the "great green room" might have come to be.

June Andersen is professionally successful, but her personal life is marred by unhappiness. Unexpectedly, she is called to settle her great-aunt Ruby’s estate and determine the fate of Bluebird Books, the children’s bookstore Ruby founded in the 1940s. Amidst the store’s papers, June stumbles upon letters between her great-aunt and the late Margaret Wise Brown—and steps into the pages of American literature.

Kaley- 4 Star

Confession: Goodnight June was the first book by Sarah Jio I've ever read. I know! I've heard of her and her novels, and even follow her on social media. But I just hadn't gotten around to reading any of her books. What a silly move! I really adored her latest novel.

Do you love the movie You've Got Mail? I think you'll love this book. They're not actually all that similar in terms of the story but the feeling is the same. Jio's June inherits a children's bookstore not unlike the one run by Meg Ryan's character, Kathleen. There's a certain type of magic you feel when you read a book (or watch a movie)  about a children's bookstore. Obviously we (meaning me and you lovely Novel Escapes fans) are readers. We understand why it's important to make sure new generations are reading, just as June eventually realized (or, more accurately, remembered). Even if you're not a fan of Nora Ephron's movie, you should read this one.

I loved how Jio imagined the origin of Goodnight Moon. Not only was it interesting but it was told through letters between Margaret Wise Brown and June's Aunt Ruby. I think reading letters made this part of the story more…poignant, I think. It was really easy to imagine the "what if" that Jio has written for us and I loved that. It would have been easy for the letters to take away from the rest of the narrative but I think they really complemented the story. There weren't too many and I loved the treasure hunt aspect that went along with the letters.  

Those letters also serve another purpose. I feel like they really give the sense that Ruby is an active participant in this novel even though she is dead. We're learning about her and her past just as June is. We also really get to see how much Ruby adored her store, Bluebird Books.

Goodnight June is a book for booklovers. Sarah Jio has written a touching, intriguing, and lovely novel that should not be missed. 

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

Connect with Sarah Jio:

Monday, July 21, 2014

Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian

5 Star

Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands is the story of Emily Shepard, a homeless girl living in an igloo made of garbage bags in Burlington. 

Nearly a year ago, a power plant in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont had a meltdown, and both of Emily's parents were killed. Devastatingly, her father was in charge of the plant, and the meltdown may have been his fault—was he drunk when it happened? Thousands of people are forced to leave their homes in the Kingdom; rivers and forests are destroyed; and Emily feels certain that as the daughter of the most hated man in America, she is in danger. So instead of following the social workers and her classmates after the meltdown, Emily takes off on her own for Burlington, where she survives by stealing, sleeping on the floor of a drug dealer's house, inventing a new identity for herself, and befriending a young homeless kid named Cameron. 

But Emily can't outrun her past, can't escape her grief, can't hide forever-and so she comes up with the only plan that she can.

Sabrina-Kate - 5 Star

I absolutely LOVE Chris Bohjalian and all of his previous books that I have read so I probably am not the most unbiased reviewer you could have. However, I can say that I think that Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands was probably my absolute favorite of his because it was so compelling to me.

Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands is set in New England, namely the state of Vermont, and having been to the places he talked about in the book probably largely influenced my enjoyment, especially since he described them so well yet so subtly. Oddly enough, I have a good friend who is a social worker in Burlington so I found the interactions between Emily and those trying to help her somewhat familiar and very heartbreaking.

This story had so many things that I just loved about it. The plausibility, the characters, the heartfelt emotion and just the utter despair that Emily felt just all drew me in in their own way. I tried to imagine putting myself in her shoes and being so utterly alone and devastated at such a young and tender age. I felt that I couldn't but I could definitely empathize with her situation and pray that it improved.

This story almost felt like I was hearing about someone's real struggle and I found myself doubting that it was all fictional, and I even found myself looking up nuclear power plants in Vermont, to see if this was even something that could happen. 

I found Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands impossible to put down and can only hope that his next book is as powerful and gripping. I promise you that if you pick this book up, no matter what type of book you enjoy, you will not be disappointed.

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

Connect with Chris Bohjalian:
Website     Facebook     Twitter     Goodreads

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Would You Rather... with Marissa Stapley

Please welcome Marissa Stapley, author of Mating for Life.

About Marissa:

I'm a National Magazine Award nominated writer who has contributed to many publications, including The Globe and Mail, National Post, Toronto Sun, Today's Parent, Fashion, and Elle. Mating for Life is my debut novel. I live in Toronto with my husband and two children. I'm currently  working on another novel and teaching creative writing classes at the University of Toronto.

Connect with Marissa:
Website     Facebook      Twitter   Goodreads

Would You Rather... with Marissa Stapley

Chips, chocolate or cheese? 

Cheese. But there would have to be a baguette and grapes to go along with it. And some wine. And some chocolate. And maybe some chips.

Bridget Jones, Becky Bloomwood or Carrie Bradshaw? 

I’m torn between Bridget Jones, because I truly have never laughed harder while reading a book in my life, and Carrie Bradshaw, because she defined my twenties. 

Wine, beer or vodka? 


Camping or spa vacation?

Camping in the wilderness!

Water or Mountains?


Zombies or Vampires?

Specifically, Bill Compton (before he went weird). Or Robert Pattinson, but not during the glittery-in-the-sunshine-chest scene.

Dogs or Cats?


Coke or Pepsi?

Neither. I prefer to consume my beverage calories in wine, thank you.

Coffee or tea?

Coffee in the morning until my hands start to shake as I type; tea for the rest of the day. (My current favourite is an black-tea-with-lavender-blend called Breakfast in Paris, by Stash.)

Dine out or take away?

Either, as long as I don’t have to cook.

High heels, sneakers or flip flops

High heels--with sneaky flip-flops in my handbag to change into on the way home.

Physical book or ebook?

Physical books forever! 

Paperback or Hardcover?

Well, paperbacks are easier to carry around and I must have a book on my person at all times-- but I do love a beautiful hardcover to display on the shelf. 

Pen or Pencil?

I have a strange obsession with mechanical pencils. 

Mad Men, Downton Abbey or Breaking Bad

This is a tough one, but I’d have to say Mad Men because my boyfriend (Don Draper) is on it.

Drama or comedy?


Twilight or Hunger Games? 


Lipstick, lipgloss or chapstick? 

Lipgloss. I have about 763 different tubes of gloss, and yet can never seem to find one when I need it most. 

Facebook or Twitter


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

I used to think I could control what my characters did by creating detailed outlines, but I’ve learned that they are as capricious as humans and dislike being hemmed in just as much as I do. So now, I fly by the seat of my pants, with brief bouts of outline discipline. 

Mating for Life

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.

Available at:
Amazon Barnes & Noble Kindle Kobo Nook


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