Saturday, September 13, 2014

One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

5 Star
Suppose your life sucks. A lot. Your husband has done a vanishing act, your teenage stepson is being bullied and your math whiz daughter has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you can’t afford to pay for.

That’s Jess’s life in a nutshell—until an unexpected knight-in-shining-armor offers to rescue them. Only Jess’s knight turns out to be Geeky Ed, the obnoxious tech millionaire whose vacation home she happens to clean. But Ed has big problems of his own, and driving the dysfunctional family to the Math Olympiad feels like his first unselfish act in ages . . . maybe ever.

Kathryn - 5 Star

I absolutely loved this book.  Maybe it's Moyes' writing that is so appealing? Maybe it’s the initial simplicity of the characters who become so much more?  Maybe it’s the intensity of the emotions that Moyes’ gets across the page?  Most likely all of the above.

One Plus One is both fast and slow moving as the action in the novel never really takes a swift course but the emotional interactions between the people becomes more and more intense.  Jess is a woman anyone would want as a friend, she’s a wonderful selfless mother and she’s even a pretty laid back ex-wife (to a fault, in fact).  I admired her handling of her children’s difficulties so much that it made me sad to know she wasn’t a real mum (or indeed a real person Kathryn!).  Her children are endearing with their troubles, so full of love for their mother and each other (and the giant, smelly dog) that you’re always aching for them to be happy and content. I found Nicky’s voice haunting and sweet, I know he wasn’t supposed to be sweet exactly but I couldn’t help but feel his empathy for his sister and mother, even early on in the novel when we were just starting to get to know him. Tanzie is quirky in her thoughts and obviously brilliantly aware for 10 years old- my heart broke for her many times too. 

One interesting part of the novel was Ed’s integration into the family. He’s given a complete story of his own and yet his voice starts to mingle with theirs without us even noticing. He becomes part of their uncoordinated little gang, on a road trip from hell, with a thousand worries of his own. I liked the slow romance that developed and though it was obviously obvious it was happening, I wouldn’t have expected anything else.   

My admiration goes out to Jojo Moyes for a realistic set of voices in a non-fairy-tale romance. I loved every minute of One Plus One and may actually read it again one day!

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

Connect with Jojo Moyes:
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Thursday, September 11, 2014

After Wimbledon by Jennifer Gilby Roberts

4.5 Star

After 12 years on the pro. tennis tour and four years with her sort-of boyfriend, Lucy Bennett has had enough. She wants real life... and real love.

Her life, her decision. Right? Well, no one else seems to think so. With opinions on all sides, Lucy's head is spinning. And she's stumbling right into the arms of long-term crush and fellow player Sam. Shame her boyfriend - his arch-rival - would sooner smash a racquet over their heads than agree to a simple change of partners.

As the Wimbledon Championships play out, Lucy fights for her life on and off the courts. The question is: what will she be left with after Wimbledon?

Kathryn - 4.5 Star

After Wimbledon was a tightly written novel with lots of character set up and plot movement. I loved the way it was succinctly written and noticed a difference in the writing from Roberts’ previous novel, The Dr Pepper Prophecies, which I also read this year.

After Wimbledon drew me into the world of competitive professional tennis (something my sports-void brain had never given much thought) in a way that didn’t overpower the relationships being established and grown throughout the plot. It was fun to read the intensity of the matches, how the players lived their lives around such grueling sets and how they continued to make their lives work around their profession. For some reason I assumed professionals in such fields went to bed at 7pm and never went anywhere during their season- silly me.

I found Lucy realistic, she didn’t seem overly pretentious or unreachable and I liked that her regular routine involved practicing at her parents’ tennis club and not some fancy country club. The author also gave us two men to love/hate without too much ambiguity so it’s wasn’t a shock ending but I did really enjoy the path to the one she was meant to be with. I liked that there was tension and confusion without the feeling of wanting to poke myself in the eye with frustration- just the right amount of round about turns in the love department. I was also pleased with the interactions with the secondary personalities-just enough development to make it feel plausible without them taking away from the main story or feeling like they were there without purpose. I really liked the reporter/friend who pushed for the scandalous story but also turned out to be a good friend to Lucy and I adored her old tennis partner.  They both gave light and heart to Lucy. But I’m still a bit frustrated with Lucy’s mother and wish there had been a bit of closure in their relationship.

After Wimbledon was a quick and fun read with some interesting glimpses into the professional tennis world and I just loved the characters!

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

Connect with Jennifer Gilby Roberts:

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Rosanna Ley Stranded on a Desert Island

Please welcome Rosanna Ley, author of The Villa, as she tackles our Desert Island Interview!

About Rosanna:

Rosanna Ley has worked as a creative writing tutor for over 15 years. Affiliated to several colleges and universities in England, she also runs her own writing courses in the UK and abroad. She has worked with community groups in therapeutic settings and completed an MA in creative writing for personal development in order to support this. Her writing holidays and retreats take place in stunning locations in Italy and Spain and whilst not teaching or writing she mentors and appraises the work of new writers. Rosanna has had numerous articles and short stories published in UK magazines, and 12 novels of contemporary fiction published in the U.K, Germany, Greece and the U.S.A under a pseudonym. Her books are inspired by the culture and landscapes of Italy, Sicily and the Canary Islands and feature strong female voices from the past and present, along with an intense undercurrent of mystery and romance. Rosanna spends some time every year travelling around Europe looking for writing inspiration and more tranquil settings for writing holidays. She loves cliff walking and her favourite writing place is somewhere with a sea view. When she is not travelling, Rosanna lives with her artist husband in a Victorian cottage in West Dorset by the sea. 

Connect with Rosanna:
Website     Facebook     Twitter    Goodreads

Wendy Rosanna Ley Stranded on a Desert Island

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

It would be a book of poetry. A massive volume of contemporary poems. I’d read a  poem a day. I’d get bored reading anything else over and over.

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

Paper and pen. Is that a luxury item? Can it be one item?

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

Probably a knife as this sounds useful. Being a non-practical person I don’t have the least idea.

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

I would love the solitude and then go completely insane.

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

This is an impossible question! How can I choose between my husband and my gorgeous offspring? How about a perfect stranger...?

What modern technology would you miss the most?

My laptop

What food or beverage would you miss the most?


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

It depends on so many things. Like, is there a food source? Are there huge spiders? Can I build shelter? Are there cannibals? When you say ‘cope’ do you mean mentally or physically..??? People adapt. People learn to cope.

What is the first thing you would do when rescued?

Phone my children and husband

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

Sorry things have been a bit quiet this end lately. I’ve been stranded on a desert island with a perfect stranger...

The Villa

Set against the rugged coast and beauty of Sicily, Rosanna Ley’s debut novel THE VILLA recounts the history of a small town where secrets are kept but never forgotten.

Flavia’s family history and why she fled her beautiful Italian country has always been a tightly guarded secret. But when Tess receives notice that she has been willed the Villa Sirena in her mother’s hometown of Sicily— the very Villa that Flavia’s father and entire family worked for—she is not only stunned, but grows even more curious to the story that lies within. Seeing this as the sign she’s been looking for to leave her unhappy life in London, and to finally learn more of her mother’s homeland, Tess makes the leap to travel to Italy to see her heritage and inheritance herself.

Available at:
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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid

5 Star

When Lauren and Ryan’s marriage reaches the breaking point, they come up with an unconventional plan. They decide to take a year off in the hopes of finding a way to fall in love again. One year apart, and only one rule: they cannot contact each other. Aside from that, anything goes.

Lauren embarks on a journey of self-discovery, quickly finding that her friends and family have their own ideas about the meaning of marriage. These influences, as well as her own healing process and the challenges of living apart from Ryan, begin to change Lauren’s ideas about monogamy and marriage. She starts to question: When you can have romance without loyalty and commitment without marriage, when love and lust are no longer tied together, what do you value? What are you willing to fight for?

Sabrina-Kate - 5 Star

A very definite MUST READ of this year! I am maybe not a impartial reader as I have loved Taylor Jenkins Reid since I read Forever, Interrupted last year so I could not wait to read this new story of hers. In fact, I do recall staying up late to finish this in one day because I just could not put it down.

After I Do was everything I love about a great read – a story that grabbed me because of heartbreaking moments that made me shed real tears and ultimately the extremely emotional and very real reactions and dialogue of the characters.

This was a story that will resonate with anyone young or old. Maybe you’ve been in the spot where Lauren and Ryan have found themselves? Maybe you only dream of being in love one day? Maybe you just love a great tale of love and romance even with the heartache? No matter what your take on love is, this story will warm your heart while making you cry.

I couldn’t help but almost obsessively thinking about this book even long after I had finished reading it. It was just THAT GOOD. The almost euphoric feeling of loving, something I had experienced, just stayed with me and lingered. I feel like there was something about After I Do that everyone could relate to (and hate or love).

The dialogue and quotes from the characters were just so wonderful and heartfelt, almost lyrical in nature. Taylor’s writing is just so addictive because of the way that she can turn a phrase. It is something that I have struggled to describe but I just can’t. All I can say is that you will not regret giving her a chance.

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

Connect with Taylor Jenkins Reid:

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez

5 Star

After their daughter Maribel suffers a near-fatal accident, the Riveras leave México and come to America. But upon settling at Redwood Apartments, a two-story cinderblock complex just off a highway in Delaware, they discover that Maribel's recovery-the piece of the American Dream on which they've pinned all their hopes-will not be easy. Every task seems to confront them with language, racial, and cultural obstacles. At Redwood also lives Mayor Toro, a high school sophomore whose family arrived from Panamà fifteen years ago. Mayor sees in Maribel something others do not: that beyond her lovely face, and beneath the damage she's sustained, is a gentle, funny, and wise spirit. But as the two grow closer, violence casts a shadow over all their futures in America. Peopled with deeply sympathetic characters, this poignant yet unsentimental tale of young love tells a riveting story of unflinching honesty and humanity that offers a resonant new definition of what it means to be an American. An instant classic is born.

Sabrina-Kate - 5 Star

I absolutely adored The Book of Unkown Americans because I found it felt like a true recounting of what immigration is today. People striving to create better lives for themselves and the unfortunate situations they find themselves struggling through in order to attempt to achieve their dreams.

The story was very heartbreaking at times but also very honest and true. I liked how the story changed perspectives so you got different takes on what was going on. I think that it often makes a story much richer when you add that depth to it.

The book was so engaging that I felt myself wondering more about some of the characters who were less developed and I could even imagine that a follow up story could be told about them. The people had that much of an appeal and draw that I was left wondering about the people it was about long after I had read the last page.

Henriquez' novel was full of  truths and realities and was often bittersweet to read. The love and care between the family really struck me. I have always thought that immigrants are very brave people as they often move to a country where they speak little, if any, of the language and come to a society that they know not much about. This book helped me to put a face to all those you never stop to truly consider.

I recommend this book to absolutely everyone as it was a fantastic read with a very important commentary on modern society.

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

Connect with Cristina Henriquez:
Website     Facebook     Twitter     Goodreads

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Love on the Back Burner by Barbara Oliverio

3 Star

Youngest in an Italian-American family that includes one brother who is a rock 
singer-turned-priest and another who successfully manages the family business, 
Alexandria D’Agostino wanted to stand out, so she moved from her small hometown and is enjoying a successful marketing career in Denver. 

On the advice of her best friend Keira, as well as office pals Natalie and Elliott, she uses the cooking skills learned from her immigrant grandmother and studies the cuisine of each prospective boyfriend’s background to improve her chances at love. 

Alexandria encounters comical mishaps along the way including one unexpected dinner for three and a meat-focused dinner for a vegetarian. After a corporate restructure somehow driven by new office heartthrob Cameron Grayson, she flies back home for counsel. 

Will she come back to Denver? Or should she re-evaluate the boy next door from high school? Should she finally admit that being a chef is her true dream? And how does Cameron fit on the menu?

Kathryn - 3 Star

Love on the Back Burner had some really good points and I ended up enjoying the story and eventually becoming invested in Alexandria and her life. However, in the interest of complete honesty, the beginning of the novel was a bit stiff.  I found the writing didn’t flow very well and there was a lot of explaining of things Alexandria was feeling which could have been shown by expression or conversation.

Alexandria herself was sweet and endearing and for the first quarter of the novel I kept envisioning a little lost lamb but it turned out that she had a tough cookie alter-ego at work that wasn’t apparent in her cooking-for-dates personality. I found these two people hard to marry together until well into the novel when her conversations with friends and co-workers exhibited both sides of her nature.  

The co-workers were great and added a certain humour to the novel that cheered Alexandria up when her dates were going disastrously wrong. And I liked that they supported her many misguided attempts at finding love as did her best friend (who spent the entire novel out of town- not sure why?). I adored her chaotic, interfering family and was a little in awe of her grandmother (I shall not lie- she was tough but loveable). I think I started to get attached to Alexandria when she managed to get home to visit her family, work disaster in tow, and found that she could be buoyed back up by their confidence in her.

Love on the Backburner is well plotted and the romance is expected but sweet and endearing. All in all, with a little tweaking at the start, this novel could be a brilliant summer read. Am curious to read Barbara Oliverio’s second novel which came out recently!

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

Connect with Barbara Oliverio:

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Lucy Dillon - Stranded on a Desert Island

Please welcome Lucy Dillon, author of A Hundred Pieces of Me, as she tackles our Desert Island Interview!

About Lucy:

Lucy Dillon lives in Herefordshire, England with her pair of basset hounds, Bonham and Violet.  Visit her online at

Connect with Lucy:

Wendy Lucy Dillon Stranded on a Desert Island

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

It’d have to be the complete works of Shakespeare: there’s everything in there, from comedy to drama to exquisite poetry to history to the sort of romantic heroes who’d make the long nights go much faster. (Also a lot of unfunny clowns, just to reassure a despairing writer that even geniuses have off days.)

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

A never-ending supply of red lipstick.

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

Is an iPhone too boring? There’s surely an app for ‘Desert Island Survival’ and I could order endless amounts of books to be air-dropped to me. Otherwise, I’d like a fully equipped hotel bed, complete with luxury mattress topper, (self-laundering) Egyptian thread count linen, many pillows, and a featherlight duvet. A girl needs a good night’s sleep. If that’s too much, just some Factor 50+ suncream, please. I’m a Celt.  I don’t do sun.

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

I think I’d enjoy it – I spent a lot of time on my own writing and I find the voices in my head aren’t bad company. And if there was no wifi on the island, I’d probably get quite a lot done!

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

I can’t choose between my dogs, Violet (imperious, warm at night, would require me to go out and find food) and Bonham (would bark at invaders, more loyal, easier to teach to fish). What, you mean a human person? Um… Jon Hamm. Chasing him round the island would be excellent exercise for us both.

What modern technology would you miss the most?

Boring answer: my laptop – I’m umbilically attached to it most of the day, containing as it does my job, my email lifeline to civilisation, all the recipes in the world for using up over-ripe bananas, my photo library, my fount of time-wasting ‘So, how long would it take for my character to get to Aberystwyth by train? Let me see…’ research and, of course, Twitter.

    Heartfelt answer: my espresso machine.

What food or beverage would you miss the most?

I refuse to be marooned on a desert island with no coffee beans.

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

How long you got? I was marooned in my house in Herefordshire one year when the whole county flooded, and the track between my house and the village was under several feet of water. I got so cosy that by the time I ventured down into the village it turned out the waters had receded four days previously and everything had gone back to normal. We like a weather-related crisis in the UK – they come along so rarely we don’t get chance to enjoy the drama.

What is the first thing you would do when rescued?

I would check to see if Waitrose had gone bust without me spending my entire salary in there while I’d been away.

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


A Hundred Pieces of Me

Emotionally unwell from her recent divorce, Gina Bellamy needs a fresh start.  In order to do this, she decides to get rid of all of her possessions, except for the one hundred things that mean the absolute most to her.

As Gina lets go of the past, she starts to come to terms with everything that has happened in her life and discovers that moving forward is the only option.  And when she makes that choice, that’s when the magic happens.

Available at:
Amazon Barnes & Noble Kindle Kobo Nook


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