Thursday, January 18, 2018

The Taste of Air by Gail Cleare

4 Star

A simple phone call disrupts Nell Williams’s well-ordered life. Her mother, Mary, is in a hospital in Vermont. But her mother is supposed to be safely tucked away in an assisted-living facility in Massachusetts, so Nell can’t fathom why she would be so far from home.

After notifying her sister, Bridget, Nell hops on a plane and rushes to her mother’s side. There, she discovers that her mother has been living a second life. Mary has another home and a set of complex relationships with people her daughters have never met.

When Nell and Bridget delve deeper into their mother’s lakeside hideaway, they uncover a vault of family secrets and the gateway to change for all three women. 

Kathryn - 4 Star

I sat on this novel for a long time before being able to read it- and I wish I hadn’t deprived myself!
The title actually evokes the feelings I remember from the book- the escape by the ocean is so airy you can taste the breeze and the need for that air is also essential for those who are seeking it- a good title for the overall feel of the book.

Nell’s family life is put on hold when she receives a phone call that her mother is in serious condition in a hospital a long way from the retirement home she thought her mother was living in.  It starts a whole series of discoveries for Nell about her mother’s life and her own family history.  When her sister Bridget is able to join her near the ocean at their mother’s beach house they really begin to realise that their mother spent a good portion of her life making her own happiness.  I think it actually helps them both to realise that they must seize their own joy – even if Nell didn’t realise she was missing any and Bridget knew she needed more.

I found the relationship between the sisters to be honest and thought provoking as well as their personal relationships with men and on the whole what we eventually know about their mother was heart-warming and heart-wrenching at the same time.  The novel really explored family relationships as well as individuality.

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

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Friday, January 12, 2018

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

5 Star

For the Owens family, love is a curse that began in 1620, when Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man.

Hundreds of years later, in New York City at the cusp of the sixties, when the whole world is about to change, Susanna Owens knows that her three children are dangerously unique. Difficult Franny, with skin as pale as milk and blood red hair, shy and beautiful Jet, who can read other people’s thoughts, and charismatic Vincent, who began looking for trouble on the day he could walk.

From the start Susanna sets down rules for her children: No walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And most importantly, never, ever, fall in love. But when her children visit their Aunt Isabelle, in the small Massachusetts town where the Owens family has been blamed for everything that has ever gone wrong, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand the truth of who they are. Back in New York City each begins a risky journey as they try to escape the family curse.

The Owens children cannot escape love even if they try, just as they cannot escape the pains of the human heart. The two beautiful sisters will grow up to be the revered, and sometimes feared, aunts in Practical Magic, while Vincent, their beloved brother, will leave an unexpected legacy.

Sabrina-Kate - 5 Star

Rarely do I read books of this type as I am not particularly interested in the paranormal and magic in general, but I fell in love with the Owens family and the children whose story this book told. The second book in a series, this book is a prequel to Practical Magic which I have not yet read but certainly will after reading this one.

Set in the sixties mostly in New York City and Massachusetts, this book tells the story of siblings Jet, Franny and Vincent whose lives were all unique but who shared many family secrets and abilities which made them close despite separations they faced over the years.  I loved hearing about this magical family and the suffering they faced due to their unique lives and the parents who tried to protect them at all cost. Facing many trials and tribulations, these three show their tenacity throughout this story which spans from childhood to adulthood and their own families. Multi-generational, the story speaks of a legacy that is everlasting and calls upon many characters throughout to weave together the story of the Owens.

A truly heartfelt story, which tugged at my heartstrings, I enjoyed getting to know this family and learning about one of my favourite cities during a fascinating time period. Alice Hoffman shows again what a master storyteller she is.

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

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Monday, January 8, 2018

Hanna Who Fell From The Sky by Christopher Meades

3 Star

Hanna has never been outside her secluded community of Clearhaven. She has never questioned why her father has four wives or why she has fourteen brothers and sisters. And in only one week, on her eighteenth birthday, Hanna will follow tradition and become the fifth wife of a man more than twice her age.

But just days before the wedding, Hanna meets Daniel, an enigmatic stranger who challenges her to question her fate and to follow her own will. Then her mother tells her a secret--one that could grant Hanna the freedom she's known only in her dreams. As her world unravels around her, Hanna must decide whether she was really meant for something greater than the claustrophobic world of Clearhaven. But can she abandon her beloved younger sister and the only home she's ever known? Or is there another option--one too fantastical to believe?

Kathryn - 3 Star

This was a strange book and not only because of the internal working of a cult content but because I felt as if it was incomplete.  Hanna is almost 18 and gives a voice to the confined world in which she's been brought up.  She is about to be married off to an elder in the fold who already has several wives and is at least 30 years her senior.  The entire story covers the short period of time leading up to her arranged marriage but there is also some back story interwoven into the present.

Hanna is more aware of her surroundings and her situation than her siblings appear to be, she’s unsure about the way her future is looking and seems to be edging towards finding a way out.  She’s also having a hard time reconciling herself to leaving her younger sister behind- she fears that no one will be able to care for her the way she can.

I wish this novel explored a longer time frame so that we had more of a feel for Hanna’s family dynamics- we had snippets, but I didn’t grasp the whole.   I feel also that there should have been more links for Hanna within the community that she could have leant on- as it was she only appeared to be close with the one sister and occasionally her mother.  She then meets Daniel who seems to give her the boost she needs to explore other options- but then she backtracks again and decides she will have to remain in Clearhaven.

I think I was frustrated because I felt this novel could have been more powerful and that the bones were there but not complete?  I enjoyed it and wanted more but am now also really curious to read other books by this author.

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

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Thursday, January 4, 2018

To Provence with Love by T.A.Williams

4 Star

Struggling writer Faye Carter just can’t believe her luck. She’s off to Provence to write the autobiography of a famous film star and she’ll be staying in the stunning chateau!

So when she meets charming (and completely gorgeous) lavender farmer, Gavin, she knows that she’s made the right choice – even if glamourous, elderly Anabelle seems to be hiding something…

But when the sun is shining, the food is delicious and the air smells of honey, anything seems possible. Will the magic of Provence help Faye finally find a happy-ever-after of her own?

Kindle    Nook    Kobo

I was again enchanted by this novel by T.A Williams which is wonderful- perhaps it’s because this novel returns to the warm countryside where romance can flourish amongst the scents of summer and majestic countryside?  Or perhaps I just related to Faye easily so everything fell into place? 

I loved that Faye upped her life and moved in with a mysterious stranger to write a memoir.  It was a pretty gutsy start to the novel and I was intrigued by her strength and determination- luckily for her she’s set up in a lovely apartment above the stables or garage or some other outbuilding and lands on her feet helping a famous film star write her story. 

All of the people who work for and with the glamourous Annabelle are charming and delightful so she’s not lacking for company either, despite the chateau’s isolation. There’s even a lovely dog to accompany her on her walks and force her outside when she needs a break from writing.

It seems almost superfluous to her joy to also be intrigued by the handsome (but a bit broody) lavender farmer next door.  A lavender farmer with a past though makes for some romantic plot twists for us and I appreciated their slow connection.  I was equally charmed by the villagers Faye meets and her father who comes to visit.

Entirely charming and sweet this novel will have you wanting to hop on a plane and discover your own slice of lavender and chateaus.

Thank you to Harper Collins UK for our review copy. All opinions are our own.

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Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Trust by Ronald H. Balson

5 Star

When his uncle dies, Liam Taggart reluctantly returns to his childhood home in Northern Ireland for the funeral—a home he left years ago after a bitter confrontation with his family, never to look back. But when he arrives, Liam learns that not only was his uncle shot to death, but that he’d anticipated his own murder: In an astonishing last will and testament, Uncle Fergus has left his entire estate to a secret trust, directing that no distributions be made to any person until the killer is found. Did Fergus know, but refuse to name, his killer? Was this a crime of revenge, a vendetta leftover from Northern Ireland’s bloody sectarian war? After all, the Taggarts were deeply involved in the IRA. Or is it possible that the killer is a family member seeking Fergus’s estate? Otherwise, why postpone distributions to the heirs? Most menacingly, does the killer now have his sights on other family members? 

As his investigation draws Liam farther and farther into the past he has abandoned, he realizes he is forced to reopen doors long ago shut and locked. Now, accepting the appointment as sole trustee of the Fergus Taggart Trust, Liam realizes he has stepped into the center of a firestorm.

Kathryn - 5 Star

I really enjoyed my past Ronald H. Balson reads and so was delighted to sink my teeth into this one.  Set in the present with family ties to recent history the plot covers the life of Liam from his childhood in Ireland (during the period referred to as The Troubles) to the his current position of being the trustee of his uncle's will. 

There are a lot of characters and it's important to get them straight or you will find yourself confused.  Not only are there a number of family members and beneficiaries to the will but there are a lot of other possible "suspects".  Suspects because the death of his uncle is deemed to be suspicious by both the police and the family. 

I found the juxtaposition between the imminent danger and the complex family relationships to be fascinating. There are many loving bonds in this family and also a number of conflicts which kept me on my toes. Things seemed to be changing constantly especially as they seemed to be getting no closer to a culprit. 

Reviewing thrillers and mysteries is difficult without giving away the plot but I will say again that I was engaged all the way through and loved the historical aspect that peppered the plot. And though I had an idea of who would eventually be the culprit I wasn't sure until the very end. 

A great read and something a little bit different.

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

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Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The Queen of Bloody Everything by Joanna Nadin

5 Star

Dido Sylvia Jones is six years and twenty-seven days old when she moves from London squat to suburban Essex and promptly falls in love with Tom Trevelyan, the boy next door. It's not just Tom that Dido falls for, though: it's also his precocious sister, Harry, and their fastidious, controlling mother, Angela. Because Angela is everything that Edie—Dido's own mother—is not. And the Trevelyans are exactly the kind of family Dido dreams of: Normal.

Dido wants to be normal more than anything else in the world. But it's the very thing that Edie can never be, as Dido—and the Trevelyans, including Dido's beloved Tom—will eventually learn the hard way.

 Kindle   Kobo

Kathryn - 5 Star

This book grabbed my attention and my heart not only because of the story but because of the writing. Every word had a purpose and the subtleties of each sentence made me question the undertones.

The novel is a study on relationships, primarily the bond between mother and daughter, and it is written as if the daughter is writing or speaking to her mother from childhood to adulthood. Their lives are difficult but not always due to hardships that are clear. It seems that Evie isn't entirely on board with her role as a mother and Dido is aware that her upbringing is unconventional, even as a small child. Though often frustrated Dido also loves her mother. Their interactions are heart breaking at times and it's no stretch to understand why she clings to the family in the home behind theirs. Their normalcy and clear roles make her feel safe. 
While my feelings of compassion for Dido were always clear my bond with Evie was mixed. I liked her spirit and her tenacity and also felt her longing for love from her daughter. But she could also be entirely devoid of maternal instinct so at times I couldn't always support her.  

The neighbours that Dido attaches herself to each represent something she is missing in her life and the author very gently weaves the links to each of them throughout the novel naturally. I was entirely convinced of their worth for her.  

While examining the mother/daughter bond this is also a novel of self discovery and growing up. A study on the way we are nurtured that will make you think and I am very pleased to have had the opportunity to read it.

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

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Saturday, December 23, 2017

Christmas at Hope Cottage by Lily Graham

4 Star

When thirty-year-old food writer Emma Halloway gets dumped then knocked off her bike, she’s broken in more ways than one, and returns to her family’s cosy cottage in the Yorkshire Dales. Emma hasn’t been back in some time, running from her crazy relatives and her childhood sweetheart, Jack Allen.
Emma’s grandmother is determined to bake her back to health and happiness, as the Halloways have done for generations. Surrounded by old friends and warm cinnamon buns, Emma starts to believe in her family’s special talents for healing again. But then in walks Jack with his sparkling hazel eyes, stirring up the family feud between them. 
As the twinkly lights are strung between the streetlamps, Emma remembers just why she fell for Jack in the first place... and why a Halloway should never date an Allen.
The infuriating new lodger, Sandro, doesn’t believe anyone should have to choose between love and family. With a little bit of Christmas magic, can Emma and Jack find a way to be together, or will Emma find herself heartbroken once more?

Kathryn - 4 Star

I became a bit attached to this village and this family.  There's something about the bonds that Lily Graham creates that appeal to me and I had a great visual of Hope cottage and the lovely women who prepared the meals, with hope and love, for those who asked for help. I was never really clear if they considered themselves witches or simply blessed with gifts of help?  Either way the warmth of the home and the history in that kitchen came through. 

Emma is unsettled being back in the village though, partly because her extensive injuries are making her feel unlike herself and partly because she has had to come face to face with the ex she lost.  I never really took to him, which was just as well really, and was much more intrigued by her aunt's lodger. He was lovely, smart and warm, just the right sort of man to help Emma become herself again! But with the romance to the side I just adored the bonds between Emma and het aunts. She was obviously very close to each of them and those relationships made the story for me.  

I wish Emma had had more friends- there were some speckled into the story but none that really made me feel she had support her own age.  Regardless though the novel is charming and both emotional and amusing.  A great read!

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

Connect with Lily Graham:
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