Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Dressmaker's Dowry by Meredith Jaeger

4.5 Star

This gripping historical debut novel tells the story of two women: one, an immigrant seamstress who disappears from San Francisco’s gritty streets in 1876, and the other, a young woman in present day who must delve into the secrets of her husband’s wealthy family only to discover that she and the missing dressmaker might be connected in unexpected ways.

An exquisite ring, passed down through generations, connects two women who learn that love is a choice, and forgiveness is the key to freedom...

Kathryn- 4.5 Star

Told in both the present and the late 1800s this novel was intricately woven from two different stories for much of the book.  

The present day story of Sarah, who is on the cusp of a crisis as a novelist and within her marriage, felt detached from the historical line. I found it a bit difficult to attach to Sarah, mostly because I felt her caginess with her husband unnecessary. She was worried about him finding out about an accident in her past which was causing hesitation about her desire to have a child. I didn't understand why she couldn't tell him and it made me distrust her so I could empathise with her husband.  

On the other side I was drawn to Hanna immediately. Her energy and silent rebelliousness came right off the pages. In a dire situation with little money, siblings to care for and an abusive father she had nothing but herself to rely on.  I felt the bond between herself and Margaret and could appreciate how much she wanted to help the only person she felt she could rely on.  I loved the desire between Hanna and Lucas. They seemed to be two of a kind and yet their circumstances kept them apart. 

Having set the two scenes the author then links them with a mystery and a ring and I was on the edge of my seat with the historical drama and who had done what.  I didn't work out the whole plot until the very end. 

Though my bond with Sarah was lacking I think the rest of the novel carried me through and I wouldn't hesitate to read Jaeger's next book.

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

Connect with Meredith Jaeger:
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Friday, October 13, 2017

Friend request by Laura Marshall

5 Star

1989. When Louise first notices the new girl who has mysteriously transferred late into their senior year, Maria seems to be everything Louise's other friends aren't. Authentic. Funny. Brash. Within just a few days, Maria and Louise are on their way to becoming fast friends.

2016. Louise receives a heart-stopping email: Maria Weston wants to be friends on Facebook. Long-buried memories quickly rise to the surface: Those first days of their budding friendship; cruel decisions made and dark secrets kept; the night that would change all their lives forever.

Louise has always known that if the truth ever came out, she could stand to lose everything. Her job. Her son. Her freedom. Maria's sudden reappearance threatens it all, and forces Louise to reconnect with everyone with whom she'd severed ties in order to escape the past. But as she tries to piece together exactly what happened that night, Louise discovers there's more to the story than she ever knew. To keep her secret, Louise must first uncover the whole truth, before what's known to Maria-or whoever is pretending to be her-is known to all.

Sabrina-Kate - 5 Star

I could not put this book down. As my eyes were literally trying to close, I would stand up in order to be able to read a bit more as I was reading very late into the night. The story is adeptly written with an expertly woven story that kept surprising me with more and more twists. I also think that the topic of bullying is one that we have all had touch our lives in one way or another with it being a prevalent topic these days so it also caught my attention due to that.

I can somewhat identify with a few of the characters in the book as I pretty much left high school behind without a backward glance for many reasons and I could not imagine what would happen if things in my past came back to haunt me. Louise was trying to avoid talking about or dealing with the past and was scared of possible repercussions for bullying in the past. Everything seemed to escalate quickly following a Facebook friend request and the scary power of what social media set up was upsetting.

As a mother, I could also empathize with Louise as I could not imagine the terror of feeling that not only your but your child's life could also be in danger. A few times my heart was actually thudding from fear when super crazy things were happening. And to be honest, I truly was not expecting exactly where this book was headed. Once some things were revealed, I thought it was over, but it just kept shocking me, over and over.

A very relevant book to our times and realities, I raced through this book as fast as I could and loved every single word. I cannot wait to see what Laura Marshall comes up with next!

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

Connect with Laura Marshall:
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Monday, October 9, 2017

Ella's Ice Cream Summer by Sue Watson

4 Star

Ella’s life just hit rock-bottom, but can a summer by the sea mend her broken heart? When life gives you lemons… make ice-cream! 

Life hasn’t always been easy for single mum Ella, but she has just hit an all-time low; she’s jobless, loveless, very nearly homeless and, to make matters worse, now the owner of a pocket-sized pooch with a better wardrobe than her. 

Packing her bags (and a bigger one for the dog), Ella sets off for the seaside town of Appledore in Devon to re-live the magical summers of her youth and claim her portion of the family ice-cream business: a clapped-out ice-cream van and a complicated mess of secrets. 

There she meets gorgeous and free-spirited solicitor, Ben, who sees things differently: with a little bit of TLC he has a plan to get the van – and Ella – back up and running in no time. 

Kathryn - 4 Star

At first, I enjoyed this novel for the light simplicity of the story - the summer draw to cold treats in a seaside town can do nothing but bring a smile to your face. There are complex issues though behind Emma's escape to the sea.  She's unsure of her financial position, she has a number of dependents who seem to be entirely her responsibility and she is feeling decidedly without direction.  On top of all this she ends up inheriting a dilapidated ice cream van from her aunt and has no clue what to do with it, except that she's keen to honour her aunt's memory.  

I didn't really care for her mother at first mostly because I found her decidedly unhelpful. But her reluctance to encourage becomes more palatable when the mystery behind the family feud starts to come out. It takes the entire novel to be fully explained though so try not to be impatient as I was!  I wanted things cleared up so that there were no more secrets.  The arrival of Ella's cousin adds tension of course and she's very difficult to read (for us and for Ella) but it's obvious that there are things she'd like to share…

I found our love interest Ben super sweet, perfect and delightful despite his own uncertainties.  I liked him almost as much as the ice cream descriptions.  Honourable mentions go to the dog and the Slimming Club ladies who added to the overall giggles. 

I've enjoyed all my Sue Watson reads. She creates generational family dynamics I always relate to. All in all a fabulous read which will have you on your toes and give you faith that families can come back together if they all want it to be so.

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

Connect with Sue Watson:
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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The Violinist of Venice by Alyssa Palombo

5 Star

A sweeping historical novel of composer and priest Antonio Vivaldi, a secret wealthy mistress, and their passion for music and each other 

Like most 18th century Venetians, Adriana d'Amato adores music-except her strict merchant father has forbidden her to cultivate her gift for the violin. But she refuses to let that stop her from living her dreams and begins sneaking out of her family's palazzo under the cover of night to take violin lessons from virtuoso violinist and composer Antonio Vivaldi. However, what begins as secret lessons swiftly evolves into a passionate, consuming love affair.

Adriana's father is intent on seeing her married to a wealthy, prominent member of Venice's patrician class-and a handsome, charming suitor, whom she knows she could love, only complicates matters-but Vivaldi is a priest, making their relationship forbidden in the eyes of the Church and of society. They both know their affair will end upon Adriana's marriage, but she cannot anticipate the events that will force Vivaldi to choose between her and his music. The repercussions of his choice-and of Adriana's own choices-will haunt both of their lives in ways they never imagined.

Spanning more than 30 years of Adriana's life, Alyssa Palombo's The Violinist of Venice is a story of passion, music, ambition, and finding the strength to both fall in love and to carry on when it ends. 

Kathryn - 5 Star

I was completely engrossed by this novel from the start. Set in Venice you can't help but be smitten with the setting. The canals, the palazzos and the tiny laneways led to a visual immediately and I was drawn into the story by the setting alone. 

I soon discovered though that I was also captivated by the plot. Though my knowledge of Vivaldi is decidedly lacking it didn't deter my reading with pleasure. The story of Adriana is the main focus and her relationship with Vivaldi leads us into a complex social history of the period.  Feisty and determined, Adriana is the perfect heroine for any novel. She's stuck doing what her unkind father wants and his attitude towards her is depressing at best. Despite their friction she seems to have raised herself to be exactly what he was hoping to avoid.  In an era when daughters were raised to obey you wonder where her independent streak came from?  Her late mother perhaps?  

Having forged the attachment to Vivaldi we are led through her trials as she tries to hide her rebellion from her oppressive family and navigate other relationships. 

The novel has numerous twists and turns and though I've no idea if any of it is based on tidbits of fact I'm quite sure that the possibility of such a liaison could indeed have been possible during the period.

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

Connect with Alyssa Palombo:

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Would you rather...with Judithe Little

Please welcome Judithe Little, author of Wickwythe Hall.


Judithe Little:

Judithe Little grew up in Virginia and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Foreign Affairs from the University of Virginia. After a brief time studying in France and interning at the U.S. Department of State, she earned her law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law where she was on the Editorial Board of the Journal of International Law and a Dillard Fellow. She lives with her husband and three children in Houston, Texas.

Connect with Judithe:
Would You Rather... 
with Judithe Little

Chips, chocolate or cheese?

Salt, salt, salt—I love salt. I need salt. Salt is life.

Bridget Jones, Becky Bloomwood or Carrie Bradshaw?

Becky Bloomwood. Retail therapy is great for procrastinating. When I’m writing and get to a challenging part, I’ll suddenly realize that I really need a new pair of shoes. All I have to do is switch screens, and Nordstrom is right there at my fingertips. Thankfully, they have a great return policy.

Wine, beer or vodka?

White wine and Pol Roger champagne. It was Winston Churchill’s favorite and is almost a character in my novel Wickwythe Hall.

Camping or spa vacation?


Dogs or cats?

Dogs. We have two labs, and we also foster pugs through a rescue called Pughearts. Our current foster is Austin, an 8-year old guy found wandering the streets who needs heartworm treatment. There’s a photo of him and my other fosters who have since been adopted under the “Pugs” tab on my website.

Coke or Pepsi?

Diet Coke.

Coffee or tea?

Neither. Diet Coke is my caffeine of choice.

Dine out or take away?

Dine out. Both are better than cooking, but sometimes I need an excuse to get off of my laptop, get out of my “lounge-wear,” and make myself presentable.

High heels, sneakers or flip flops?

Flip flops.

Physical Book or ebook?


Pen or pencil?

Pen. Less maintenance.

Drama or comedy?

Drama. It stays with you longer.

Lipstick, lipgloss or chapstick?

Lipstick during the day, chapstick at night.

Facebook or Twiter?

Facebook. Twitter makes my head spin. I don’t know how people keep up.

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

Everyone is different but for me it’s a mix of both: plot, then fly, then plot, then fly.

Wickwythe Hall

May 1940. The Germans invade France and the course of three lives is upended. Annelle LeMaire is a French refugee desperate to contact her Legionnaire brothers. Mabry Springs, American wife of a wealthy Brit, is struggling to come to terms with a troubled marriage and imminent German invasion. And Reid Carr, American representative of French champagne house Pol Roger, brings more than champagne to Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Their paths entwine when Churchill and his entourage take refuge at Wickwythe Hall, the Springs’ country estate hidden from the full moon and German bombers beneath a shroud of trees. There, as secrets and unexpected liaisons unfold, Annelle, Mabry and Reid are forever bound by the tragedy they share. 

Inspired in part by an actual confrontation between the British and French navies in July 1940, Wickwythe Hall is a story of love, loyalty, and the heartrending choices one is forced to make during wartime.

Available at:

Amazon Barnes & Noble Kindle 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Cornish Escape by Lily Graham

4 Star

Get swept away along the beautiful Cornish coast with two love stories, centuries apart in time but entwined at their hearts.

Victoria Langley’s world crumbles when her husband leaves, but she knows exactly where to go to mend her broken heart. The rugged shores of Cornwall will be her perfect sanctuary. 

In the quaint, little village of Tregollan, nestled in the sea cliffs, Victoria is drawn to Seafall Cottage, covered in vines and gracefully falling apart. Inside she finds a diary full of secrets, from 1905.

Victoria is determined to unravel the diary’s mystery, but the residents of Tregollan are tight-lipped about Tilly Asprey, the cottage’s last owner. Just as she reaches a dead end, Victoria meets Adam Waters, the lawyer handling the cottage’s sale. He’s handsome, charming, and has a missing piece of the puzzle.

Tilly’s diary tells a devastating love story that mirrors Victoria’s own. Can Victoria learn from Tilly’s mistakes, and give herself a second chance at love? Or is history doomed to repeat itself?

Kathryn - 4 Star

A fun and easy read The Cornish Escape will take you to the idyllic world of renovating dilapidated cottages and living on the river.   It also delivers some romance and intrigue and some lovely characters with which to explore it all.   I whipped through this novel and definitely enjoyed it.  However, I preferred my previous Lily Graham read A Cornish Christmas. 

Victoria’s marriage is over but I didn’t get the impression that she minded all that much, just that she was seeking a world where she felt she was more comfortable, and doing something for herself.  I liked her purposeful exit and her lack of wavering.  Her new life seemed to suit her personality better, it was not so frenetic and it allowed her time to think and take each new experience in.  The mystery surrounding the cottage’s history had me hooked and I wasn’t expecting the thorough back story for the cottage and the diary to be interwoven into the present so well.  Their story felt current and linked with Victoria’s- very well done.

My prior experience with Graham’s writing was warm, embracing and a little bit gritty.  She dealt with a difficult topic using people that I felt drawn to.  This novel didn’t pull me in as much and though the intrigue was there I didn’t feel the subject was so tender and therefore didn’t require as much subtlety of navigation. However, I enjoyed the novel and I liked the tiny links between this book and A Cornish Christmas- I wished there had been more!

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

Connect with Lily Graham:

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

I hear she's a real bitch by Jen Agg

3.5 Star

Toronto restaurateur Jen Agg, the woman behind the popular The Black Hoof, Cocktail Bar, Rhum Corner, and Agrikol restaurants, is known for her frank, crystal-sharp and often hilarious observations and ideas on the restaurant industry and the world around her.

I Hear She's a Real Bitch, Jen Agg's first book, is caustic yet intimate, and wryly observant; an unforgettable glimpse into the life of one of the most interesting, smart, trail-blazing voices of this moment. 

Sabrina-Kate - 3.5 Star

I was really excited about reading a book by a female chef. As she hates the term "foodie", out of respect for Jen Agg, I will name myself as a "food enthusiast" which made me especially excited to get a peek inside her head and thoughts.  The book was engaging, even though it began way back during her teenage years. I do firmly believe that our experiences shape us, so it was a revelation to see where she started out.

The basic story of her life thus far was pretty interesting and I did really enjoy seeing how hands on she really is, doing a lot of restaurant construction work herself. I am not sure about a few parts of the book though where she went a little to deeply into personal things. There were a few very "Too Much Information" moments that didn't really fit in with the rest of the book or even the chapters where they appeared.

I imagine that it is somewhat necessary for a female in the restaurant industry to be quite ballsy but I didn't really like the me-against-them attitude that was very apparent, especially at the end, given that she appeared to have a lot of support from many men in her life. I also didn't like how she rushed a bit through the last few years at the end of the book. Grey Gardens and Agrikol,  two of her greatest works, I would have liked a bit more focus on.

It was an interesting book to read though and to get some insight into the mind of a very successful woman and to see what it takes to get what you want, at least in the food industry.

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

Connect with Jen Agg:


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