Saturday, October 25, 2014

Finding Mother by Anne Allen

3 Star

Three women. Three generations. Sacrifices for love… 
Who is she really? Nicole is about to find out as she searches for her real mother; the woman who gave her away at birth. With her marriage in tatters, she sets out from England: travelling to Spain, Jersey and Guernsey before the extraordinary story of her real family is finally revealed.

Nicole becomes an unwitting catalyst for change in the family. Two women are forced to reveal long-buried secrets. One going back as far as the Second World War. Lives are transformed as choices have to be made and the past laid to rest…

Kathryn - 3 Star

I really think the next place to visit on my list should be Guernsey or Jersey (probably both- you shouldn’t just pick one, right?) I seem to be drawn to these places intensely and appreciated the author’s descriptions when setting her scenes.  I read the book trying not to google images of these lovely islands and to concentrate on the story at hand.

Finding Mother isn’t exactly what I was expecting. I thought, from the book's synopsis, that we would be mostly following Nicole’s search for her birth parents and instead we found them almost right away and the rest of the novel unfolded after their meeting. The “action” was therefore right at the start of the book and I found the rest meandered slowly and pleasantly along much as I would imagine the pace of life on the islands would do. That’s not to say that there weren’t some interesting titbits of information leaked into the plot throughout and I enjoyed the story line- it just wasn’t what I had been expecting.

The author created some multi-layered characters and relationships however I didn’t care for all of them! Nicole was a very strange enigma for me as at first she seemed so forthright and determined to leave her philandering husband. She had quite a high powered job for which she obviously had to have her head screwed on properly but she didn’t seem to have much of the same characteristics once she stepped back on to the island where she grew up. I was also really disappointed with the links with her adoptive parents who could have been given more gumption when confronted with their daughter’s marital collapse and subsequent life changing decisions.  They faded into the background which wasn't at all realistic- Nicole even forgets to call them with updates for much of the novel.  However I really loved her birth grandmother- she was just the right mix of tough nut and soft place to fall. 

There’s a lot to enjoy about Finding Mother and I read the whole thing happily and contentedly, no great surprises but some interesting bonds were formed which made the novel a good read.

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

Connect with Anne Allen:
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Friday, October 24, 2014

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

5 Star

Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet . . . So begins the story of this exquisite debut novel, about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee; their middle daughter, a girl who inherited her mother’s bright blue eyes and her father’s jet-black hair. Her parents are determined that Lydia will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue—in Marilyn’s case that her daughter become a doctor rather than a homemaker, in James’s case that Lydia be popular at school, a girl with a busy social life and the center of every party.

When Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together tumbles into chaos, forcing them to confront the long-kept secrets that have been slowly pulling them apart. James, consumed by guilt, sets out on a reckless path that may destroy his marriage. Marilyn, devastated and vengeful, is determined to find a responsible party, no matter what the cost. Lydia’s older brother, Nathan, is certain that the neighborhood bad boy Jack is somehow involved. But it’s the youngest of the family—Hannah—who observes far more than anyone realizes and who may be the only one who knows the truth about what happened.

Sabrina-Kate - 5 Star

Another great read from a debut author. Everything I Never Told You had me captivated from the beginning despite being based on a story that I felt I may have heard before. The author took what could have been just an ordinary story and made it into something very unique.

This story goes back and forth between the past and present, ultimately using the stories in the past to explain the terrible thing that has happened in the present day. I found it very interesting to see how the characters evolved over time due to circumstance and found it quite astonishing to see just how much they had changed from their original feelings and desires.

The story was not a happy one by any means but one that will stick in my mind and heart for a long time to come. It is quite sad how stress and pressure can have such a devastating and lasting impact on a family. Being a mother, that fact alone was a real eye opener for me.

This book was a stand out experience for many reasons but mostly because of the extremely painful moments that were so beautifully described by this extremely talented author. I could not fathom some of the experiences they had to endure as a Chinese American family and felt like Ng was just brilliant at describing them.

Everything I Never Told You swept me along and did not disappoint and kept my heart breaking over and over with each new revelation. A definite must read of this year.

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

Connect with Celeste Ng:
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Monday, October 20, 2014

A Kind Of Mad Courage - Anthology

5 Star

Nineteen authors from around the world were given six weeks or less to produce “a story involving a mother somehow.” The result is a gorgeously eclectic collection of tales that will make you laugh, cry, and truly appreciate the “mad courage” of motherhood. 

Laura Chapman, Francine LaSala, Nikki Mahood, Heather McCoubrey, and Karen E. Martin each present unique takes on impending motherhood, while Sheryn MacMunn, kc wilder, and Julie Valerie portray the end of the journey. Samantha Stroh Bailey, Louise Wise, and Maria Schulz show the pride and peril of dealing with teenage daughters, while Elke Feuer, Diana Shafter Gliedman, and Donna Valenti demonstrate that a mother’s work is never done, even under the craziest of circumstances. Regina-Cash Clark, Wendy Janes, and Monique McDonell explore the impact on lives in which mothers go “missing,” while Carey Heywood and Jen Tucker warm your heart and tear it out, respectively.

Kathryn - 5 Star

An anthology is always intriguing because of the different writing styles but it was the simple directive given to the authors “just write a story involving a mother somehow” that possibly made A Kind Of Mad Courage most compelling.

I was expecting more tales of toddler trials and glorious newborns and was surprised by the number of stories that reflected and delved into the relationships between mothers and teens and with women and their own mother figures. I actually found myself analysing my own family’s relationships (triumphs and short-comings) while reading each author’s contribution. I’m afraid I found a few of them too hard to get through and had to go back and try again another day- those were the ones that tore at my heart so much it hurts still, just writing my review.  Others foreshadowed the upcoming teen years with own daughter and made me look at my now five year old with a new love and also some good healthy fear- I think healthy fear?

The one though that stuck with me the most was Julie Valerie’s LLL because it had everything in it- humour, depth of emotion, elements of frustration I could relate too and a bit of quirkiness with the scrabble words inter-mingled with the story. It made me want to play scrabble of course and at the same time made me think hard about a parent with dementia. I lost my dad two years ago and since that time I've been purposefully pushing all thoughts of losing my mother out of my mind. For me opening up to that eventuality was a good thing because it made me more aware of the now we still have.

I was impressed with all the short stories in this compilation and related to each one in some way. A Kind Of Mad Courage is definitely not only for those who are mothers but for everyone who has a close woman in their lives that they cherish- daughter, mother, grandmother, sister, aunt or friend.

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

Connect with the authors:
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Friday, October 17, 2014

Bad Bridesmaid by Portia MacIntosh

3.5 Star

‘My wedding is ruined and my marriage is going to fail. And it’s all your fault!'
LA romcom writer Mia Valentina has it all; money, success, a tanned and toned body, golden blonde hair and a string of sexy lovers. She’s almost forgotten her previous self: plain old Mia Harrison. Until a wedding invitation arrives requesting (demanding!) her presence as chief bridesmaid at her younger sister Belle’s upcoming nuptials.

Mia’s barely been back in England before she’s accidentally injured the groom, unintentionally ‘cursed’ the wedding and been caught in a compromising position with her sister’s soon to be brother-in-law!

With the wedding of the year going dangerously off the rails, Mia has no time to waste – especially with sexy fireman and best man Leo on hand to help… Will she use all of her expert romance knowledge to save the day or will she just walk away? No one ever said a bad girl had to turn good…

Kaley - 3.5 Star

You know the things you love about British chick lit novels? The setting, the language, the humour, the ridiculous circumstances? Bad Bridesmaid by Portia Macintosh has all of those things and, thankfully, they all work together to create quite the enjoyable read.

I loved that Mia writes romantic comedies. I don't think I've ever read a chick lit novel that has a chick flick writer as its heroine. I find this surprising because it's just the type of profession that lends itself well to these books. Mia's job was fun and interesting but it also provided a way for readers to learn right away that Mia is not one for love.

Speaking of love, the romance angle in this book was slightly predictable (hello, it's chick lit) but it wasn't boring. I liked that Macintosh kept me on my toes. I was never quite sure what would happen next and, though I had a feeling I knew who Mia would end up with, there were enough curveballs thrown in the mix to keep the story, and the romance, interesting.

I think what kept me from rating this book four stars was Mia's relationship with her family. I couldn't stand (let alone understand) how much they seemed to hate her. There didn't seem to be a good enough reason for all the negative feelings. I cringed every time something went wrong, not because it did (they were usually hilarious incidents), but because I knew Mia would be blamed and there was no reason for it. It just wasn't believable! I also found the ending with her family to be slightly unbelievable as well...things just didn't match up with the way her fam had been acting previously and I didn't see any real change in them by the end of the book.

Going back to Mia...I really liked her. Just as her latest movie heroine was a bit of an atypical rom com leading lady, so is Mia a different chick lit heroine. She sleeps around, she's anti-love, she doesn't have many (ok, any) close girlfriends. But her personality is what makes Bad Bridesmaid so much better. She's not bad enough to justify her family's extremely negative reaction to her (see above) but her attitude towards life is interesting to read about. Her opinions are not often shared by a chick lit heroine so it was refreshing to get a new perspective in the genre.

Bad Bridesmaid is a really funny chick lit novel. If you're looking for some entertainment for a weekend, Portia Macintosh's novel is for you!

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

Connect with Portia McIntosh:
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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Would You Rather with Yona Zeldis McDonough

Please welcome Yona Zeldis McDonough, You Were Meant for Me, Two of a Kind and A Wedding in Great Neck.

Yona Zeldis McDonough:

Yona Zeldis McDonough is the author of the novels Two of a Kind, A Wedding in Great Neck, Breaking the Bank, In Dahlia's Wake, and The Four Temperaments, as well as nineteen books for children. She is also the editor of two essay collections and is the Fiction Editor at Lilith magazine. Her award-winning short fiction, articles, and essays have been published in anthologies and in numerous national magazines and newspapers. She lives in Brooklyn, NY, with her husband, two children and three very yappy Pomeranians.

Connect with Yona:
Website    Facebook     Twitter   Goodreads

Would You Rather... 
with Yona Zeldis McDonough

Chips, chocolate or cheese?

Without a doubt, chocolate, and the more expensive and imported, the better!

Bridget Jones, Becky Bloomwood or Carrie Bradshaw?

Becky Bloomwood, because like her, I am a shopper!

Wine, beer or vodka?

Uh…none of the above! Not an imbiber. How about an iced coffee, very light, with lots of crushed ice? 

Camping or spa vacation?

Spa all the way! Why sleep outside when we finally figured out how to come in from the cold?

Water or mountains?

Water, and specifically lakes or ponds. I like my water tranquil…

Zombies or vampires?

None of the above! Can I substitute mermaids, fairies or unicorns? Pretty please? 

Dogs or cats?

Dogs for sure.  I have two and if my husband agreed, I’d have a third. 

Coke or Pepsi?

Not a soda gal either. Make mine a lemonade, freshly squeezed and not too sweet please!

Coffee or tea?

Coffee! I like it hot, cold or any which way. 

Dine out or take away?

Dine out so someone else can clean up!

High heels, sneakers or flip flops?

How about Chanel cap-toe ballerina flats? Been coveting those for a long time now…

Physical Book or ebook?

Physical book for sure. 

Paperback or Hardcover?

Paperback for fiction but hardcover for poetry. 

Pen or pencil?

Pencil, because you can sharpen the point.  And erase. 

Mad Men, Downton Abbey or Breaking Bad?

Mad Men.  Those clothes…!

Drama or comedy?

Drama.  I like the dark notes. 

Twilight or Hunger Games?

Not feeling either of these…

Lipstick, lipgloss or chapstick?

Lipstick, bright red and creamy. I won’t stir from the house without it. 

Facebook or Twiter?

Vive Facebook! Love the interactions. 

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

Plot the novel but be prepared for the detours…that’s what keeps it fresh and exciting. 

You Were Meant For Me

What do you do when you have to give up the person you love most?

Thirty-five-year-old Miranda is not an impulsive person. She’s been at Domestic Goddess magazine for eight years, she has great friends, and she’s finally moving on after a breakup. Having a baby isn’t even on her radar—until the day she discovers an abandoned newborn on the platform of a Brooklyn subway station. Rushing the little girl to the closest police station, Miranda hopes and prays she’ll be all right and that a loving family will step forward to take her.

Yet Miranda can’t seem to get the baby off her mind and keeps coming up with excuses to go check on her, until finally a family court judge asks whether she’d like to be the baby’s foster parent—maybe even adopt her. To her own surprise, Miranda jumps at the chance. But nothing could have prepared her for the ecstasy of new-mother love—or the heartbreak she faces when the baby’s father surfaces...

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Would You Rather with Lauren Clark

Please welcome Lauren Clark, author of Pie Girls, Stay Tuned, Stardust Summer, and Dancing Naked in Dixie.

About Lauren Clark:

After six years behind the anchor desk at two CBS affiliates, Lauren Clark moved to the Alabama Gulf Coast to raise her family and write full-time. 

Lauren has published four novels, Pie Girls (set in Fairhope, Alabama), Stay Tuned, Stardust Summer, andDancing Naked in Dixie, under the pen name, Lauren Clark. More than twenty-two thousand copies of Lauren's novels have been sold worldwide.

Connect with Lauren:
Website    Twitter   Goodreads

Would You Rather... Lauren Clark

Chips, chocolate or cheese?

Chocolate. If you throw in some caramel, I'm likely to swoon!

Bridget Jones, Becky Bloomwood or Carrie Bradshaw?

Becky Bloomwood. She's a riot. So well-meaning, but can't keep her life from veering out of control.  Laugh out loud funny, and I can't wait for "Shopaholic to the Stars!"

Wine, beer or vodka?

Red wine. Hands down.

Camping or spa vacation?

As much as I'd like to fib and say camping, I'm definitely a spa girl!

Water or mountains?

That's a tough one. I love both. Do I have to choose?

Zombies or vampires?

Vampires. I'd rather have a bite on the neck and live forever than have someone feast on my brains!  Eeeek!

Dogs or cats?

Dogs. I've had two black labs and they are the most loving, loyal pets.

Coke or Pepsi?

Diet Dr. Pepper. I know that's not a choice.  

Coffee or tea?


Dine out or take away?

I like to go out, but I prefer funky joints or upscale spots that are family owned and operated. 

High heels, sneakers or flip flops?

I'm a shoe junkie. Love high heels.

Physical Book or ebook?

I love a physical book, but admit that I've grown accustomed to reading on my iPhone because it's convenient!!

Paperback or Hardcover?


Pen or pencil?

Pen. There's something about the ink on the page.

Mad Men, Downton Abbey or Breaking Bad?

Downton Abbey. The writing is brilliant and I love the family conflict. It's drama without violence, sex, and cussing, but manages to be gripping and compelling. Proof that great writing and a fabulous storyline can win the day!

Drama or comedy?

 Drama to read. Comedy to write!

Twilight or Hunger Games?

Hunger Games. I love Katniss. I adore a kick-butt female protagonist with insurmountable odds.

Lipstick, lipgloss or chapstick?

Lip gloss.  I love Bobbi Brown or MAC.

Facebook or Twiter?

I'm on Facebook more, but Twitter is really growing on me. I've met and made friends with fabulous people on both.

Pie Girls

Princess, Southern belle, and spoiled-rotten social climber Searcy Roberts swore on a stack of Bibles she’d never return home to Fairhope, Alabama. After marrying her high school sweetheart and moving to Atlanta, Searcy embraces big-city life—Carrie Bradshaw style. 

But now, Searcy has a teeny, tiny problem. Her husband’s had a mid-life crisis. He’s quit his job, cancelled her credit cards, and left her for another man. 

Searcy returns to Fairhope, ready to lick her wounds. But when her mother falls ill, she’s thrust into managing the family business—only to discover the beloved bakery is in danger of closing its doors forever. 

Enlisting the help of the adorable bike store owner next door, an array of well-heeled customers, and her soon-to-be ex-husband, Searcy hatches the plan of the century to save Pie Girls. 

Available at:

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Good Morning, Mr Mandela by Zelda le Grange

5 Star

Good Morning, Mr Mandela tells the extraordinary story of how a young woman had her life, beliefs, prejudices and everything she once believed in utterly transformed by the greatest man of her time. It is the incredible journey of an awkward, terrified young typist in her twenties later chosen to become the President's most loyal and devoted servants, spending most of her adult working life travelling with, supporting and caring for the man she would come to call 'Khulu', or 'grandfather'.

Here Zelda pays tribute to Nelson Mandela as she knew him - a teacher who gave her the most valuable lessons of her life. A man who refused to be defined by his past, who forgave and respected all, but who was also frank, teasing and direct. As he renewed his country, he also freed Zelda from a closed world of fear and mistrust, giving her life true meaning. Now she shares his lasting and inspiring gifts with the world.

Kathryn - 5 Star

I jumped at the chance to read this autobiography. Like most people in the world I believe that Nelson Mandela is a man whose presence will never be lost and I was intrigued and excited to read about him through someone else’s eyes, someone who spent so much time with him. I really wasn’t sure what to expect when I opened Good Morning, Mr Mandela and I was quick to realise that Zelda la Grange loved her employer with as much admiration as anyone else in the world.  Her entire youth was dedicated to ensuring that he was taken care of and that his needs were met from an administrative point of view as well as his family’s personal needs- from organising meetings with heads of state to ensuring transfers were made for his personal banking. 

I found some aspects of her autobiography fascinating and others a bit slow.  Sometimes we got a bit too much detail about their travel and movements but in the end I understood her purpose behind what appeared to be occasionally mundane anecdotes. I think the length of her thought process needed to be there to give us the sense of her long standing relationship with Mandiba and her full commitment to him.

I was touched with her moments and connections with Mr Mandela’s wife Mrs Machel as they obviously appreciated each other’s interest in him and realised that they were both of the utmost importance to his life staying on track.  Mr Mandela’s gentle firmness and insight is clearly expressed through Zelda la Grange’s memoirs and I gained a sense of the man through her writing of this book.  I cried a number of times reading about his last year of life, the turmoil of his family struggling with each other for standing and power over him, his business and his finances.  The last couple of chapters were particularly hard to read- the confusion and chaos around his funeral came as such a disappointment for a man who made his entire life about broaching peace and communication.

Good Morning Mr Mandela is an honest and poignant account of someone close to Mr Mandela for the last quarter of his life and I gained a lot of peace in reading it.

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

Connect with Zelda la Grange:
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