Monday, April 21, 2014

For Today I Am A Boy by Kim Fu

5 Star

Peter Huang and his sisters—elegant Adele, shrewd Helen, and Bonnie the bon vivant—grow up in a house of many secrets, then escape the confines of small-town Ontario and spread from Montreal to California to Berlin. Peter’s own journey is obstructed by playground bullies, masochistic lovers, Christian ex-gays, and the ever-present shadow of his Chinese father.

At birth, Peter had been given the Chinese name Juan Chaun, powerful king. The exalted only son in the middle of three daughters, Peter was the one who would finally embody his immigrant father's ideal of power and masculinity. But Peter has different dreams: he is certain he is a girl.





Sabrina-Kate - 5 Star

I honestly loved absolutely everything about this book. I couldn't put it down and was truly surprised that this was a debut novel. Everything about For Today I Am A Boy resonated with me in a very deep way despite obviously not having a life situation anything like the main character's and that really proved the power of this author's written word.

The story was heartbreaking and yet also such a triumph at the same time. I couldn't help but cheer for the main character, Peter, and wish all his dreams and desires would come true. I felt like his inner conflict and hopes were so powerfully captured in their description that I could feel how he was feeling.

This author stunned me with the absolutely fantastic way she gripped me and made me want to continue reading long into the night, searching for the next details eagerly. Every little part of the book, every nuance, every word was just so perfectly executed. I finished this book a couple weeks ago but haven't stopped thinking about it since.

I believe part of the power was that Kim Fu has a large part of this book set in Montreal, where I live, and without over-describing it, she was able to capture the heartbeat of the city in a very realistic way.
My heart broke for the Huang children and all of their struggles and difficulties. The story made me care very much about them and I felt like I was able to watch them grow up and become who they were meant to be. 

This was definitely one of my favourite books of this year and though we are not very far into 2014, I am pretty sure that it will remain one of the top reads for me.

Thank you to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for our review copy.  All opinions are our own.

Connect with Kim Fu:


Saturday, April 19, 2014

Would You Rather with Lucy Robinson

Please welcome Lucy Robinson, author of A Passionate Love Affair with a Total Stranger

About Lucy:

The Unfinished Symphony of You and Me - out July 31st 2014 - will be Lucy Robinson’s third book and follows on from the tremendous success of The Greatest Love Story of All Time and A Passionate Love Affair with a Total Stranger. 

Prior to writing Lucy earned her crust in theatre production and then factual television, working on documentaries for all of the UK’s major broadcasters. Her writing career began when she started a dating blog for Marie Claire about her fairly pathetic attempts at Internet dating.

Lucy was brought up in Gloucestershire surrounded by various stupid animals. She studied at Birmingham University and lived in London for many years before disappearing off to South America to write her first two novels. 


Connect with Lucy:
Website     Facebook     Twitter     Goodreads


Would You Rather... with Lucy Robinson

Chips, chocolate or cheese? 

But . . . But . . . But I want all of them! Can't I? Please?

Bridget Jones, Becky Bloomwood or Carrie Bradshaw? 

I have a nasty penchant for singing Celine Dion songs when I'm alone. So, sadly, Bridget. 

Wine, beer or vodka? 

Wine, of course. In a huge and fabulous glass that makes me feel really cultured and worldly.

Camping or spa vacation?

Camping - I love the outdoors - but I'll probably check in for a spa day afterwards if that's ok. 

Water or Mountains?

Mountains. They are humbling and beautiful. 


Zombies or Vampires?

I think vampires, because The Count from Sesame Street was a vampire and he is the greatest invention of all time.

Dogs or Cats?

DOGS! There is nothing and nobody on earth who can make me laugh quite like a dog. They are so ridiculous and happy and hilarious. 

Coke or Pepsi?

Well of course I only drink herbal tea and filtered water . . .  Oh go on then. Coke. 

Coffee or tea?

I like a big cup of steamed milk that tastes vaguely of coffee. With a slice of cake please. 

Dine out or take away?

Dine out. As a writer I do a lot of dining in alone, particularly at lunchtime. It's surprisingly exciting to get out for lunch with girlfriends.

High heels, sneakers or flip flops

I recently moved to a very hilly city in the UK (Bristol) where the wearing of heels would lead to serious injury. So I'm all about sneakers now. 

Physical book or ebook?

Physical. I love the portability of an eBook but nothing beats the smell and feel - not to mention the sight - of a beautiful book. 

Paperback or Hardcover?

Paperback. My handbag is quite heavy enough thank you.   

Pen or Pencil?

Pen. A really old-fashioned fountain pen with cartridges full of thick velvety ink. Lovely.


Mad Men, Downton Abbey or Breaking Bad

Mad Men I think. The clothes the girls wear make me feel weak with longing. Why don't we dress like that any more?

Drama or Comedy?

Drama.

Twilight or Hunger Games? 

Oh no . . . I've never seen either. Can we still be friends . . ?

Lipstick, lipgloss or chapstick? 

Currently, lipstick. It's a sort of candy pink. But I tend to rotate between the three. 

Facebook or Twitter

Facebook. I'm incapable of saying anything in 160 characters. 


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

The more I write, the more I've had to accept that it does need planning. When I don't plan it all goes wrong and I go a bit mad.


A Passionate Love Affair with a Total Stranger

Charley Lambert has put considerable effort into achieving a perfect life. She has The Job. The Wardrobe. And The Flat. Her womanising, junk food-loving housemate Sam lowers the tone a bit but that aside, things are peachy. Then she breaks her leg in three places, watches her unrequited love propose to someone else and - worst of all - is forced to hand over her job to her nasty deputy while she recovers. Workaholic Charley fears that she will soon go mad. Desperate for something to do, she discovers her talent for helping the lovelorn online. And then William arrives in her inbox. Within hours of his first email, her world starts to change. Helpless, she watches herself fall in love with this man and begins to realise that she's not who she thought she was. But will she be brave enough to turn her back on her old life - all for a total stranger? 

Available at:
Kindle

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Vintage by Susan Gloss

3 Star

At Hourglass Vintage in Madison, Wisconsin, every item in the boutique has a story to tell . . . and so do the women who are drawn there.

Yellow Samsonite suitcase with ivory, quilted lining, 1950s...
Violet Turner had always dreamed of owning a shop like Hourglass Vintage. Though she knows the personal history behind each precious item she sells, Violet refuses to acknowledge her own past. When she is faced with the possibility of losing the store, she realizes that, as much as she wants to, she cannot save it alone.

Taffeta tea length wedding gown with scooped neckline and cap sleeves, 1952...
Eighteen-year-old April Morgan is nearly five months along in an unplanned pregnancy when her hasty engagement is broken. When she returns the perfect 1950s wedding dress, she discovers unexpected possibilities and friends who won't let her give up on her dreams.

Orange sari made from silk dupioni with gold paisley design, 1968...
Betrayed by her husband, Amithi Singh begins selling off her old clothes, remnants of her past life. After decades of housekeeping and parenting a daughter who rejects her traditional ways, she fears she has nothing more ahead for her.


Kathryn - 3 Star


Violet has a lot invested in her vintage clothing store and it made me a little nervous that she seemed to have few links to her past- there are times throughout Gloss’ novel when Violet’s grandmother is mentioned but not a lot about parents or friends from her home town.  Her fleeing from the place she grew up was blamed solely on her ex-husband so I wished there had been more positive glimpses into her past. 

The vintage clothing shop is much more than a business and that is the basis of the novel’s story.  Each woman than touches the store has a bigger story to tell than the small moment that relates to the clothing item she brings in and I liked that Gloss introduced or reminded us of the characters by using the clothing they were selling. On occasion the link between item and person seemed a bit stretched and I didn’t think the item was really worthy of the chapter that unfolded, but, on the whole I liked the idea of the piece being a part of the woman and therefore bringing with it a moment or memory of her life. 

While I enjoyed this novel I did find it a bit slow and meandering…and though Vintage was a fun read I didn’t take away anything particularly spectacular except the concept itself. My instinct is to suggest that the secondary character of Betsy might have been a better third main character than Amithi or that Amithi needed to become a stronger presence in the story as it unfolded.  And while Violet was likeable I didn’t find much to relate to for me.

Vintage is on the whole a good chick lit novel with likeable characters and inter woven relationships but it didn’t linger with me like some other recent reads.


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

Connect with Susan Gloss:


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Would You Rather with Hilary Grossman

Please welcome Hilary Grossman author Dangled Carat

About Hilary:

Hilary Grossman dated a guy so commitment-phobic that she was able to write a book about their relationship. She is currently the CFO of a beverage alcohol importer and lives on Long Island.


Connect with Hilary:
Website     Facebook     Twitter     Goodreads





Would You Rather... with Hilary Grossman

Chips, chocolate or cheese? 

Cheese, please!  Especially the spicy kind...

Bridget Jones, Becky Bloomwood or Carrie Bradshaw? 

Carrie Bradshaw!  What I would do for an hour in her closet....Especially her shoe closet!

Wine, beer or vodka? 

Wine! It is essential for survival :) I actually detest beer. I think I can count on one hand the number of beers I’ve had in my life.

Camping or spa vacation?

After surviving Hurricane Sandy and the aftermath I learned I would make a very good camper. However, camping by choice?  No way!  I am not a spa fan either though. I only had one massage in my life and it was done by a depressed masseuse.  It took me days to recover from the stories she told me....

Water or Mountains?

Water!  I am a total beach bum!


Zombies or Vampires?

Vampires... There is something sexy about them.

Dogs or Cats?

I used to be team dog all the way, but now I am more of a cat girl.... About a year ago I adopted a kitten, Lucy. I swear she is the feline version of me!

Coke or Pepsi?

Diet Coke.  I never drink regular soda. I hate to waste the calories on it. I would rather save them for wine.  After all, see #3 - Wine is essential for life!

Coffee or tea?

Coffee!  I mainline it every morning and end up drinking at least half a pot.  But I am a coffee snob. I grind my own beans every morning.

Dine out or take away?

Dine out.  I really don’t like to take away, unless it is sushi.  But I really enjoy cooking.

High heels, sneakers or flip flops

High heels. I love the way they make me feel!

Physical book or ebook?

Ebook! I do most of my reading on the run. I love the convenience of an ebook!  I also love that you never have to worry about not having a book with you. You can just download another.

Paperback or Hardcover?

Paperback.  

Pen or Pencil?

Depends on my mood.... But just for the doodle-ability. If you sit me down with a piece of paper and a pen or pencil I can’t help but draw.  I find sitting still very difficult. Doodling helps me focus. You should see my notebooks at work.  I have elaborate drawings with some notes scattered in.


Mad Men, Downton Abbey or Breaking Bad

I hate to admit I haven’t watched any of them. I really don’t watch much TV - although I do love to fall asleep to Criminal Mind reruns.

Drama or Comedy?

Comedy.  Laughter is the best medicine!  But although I lean towards Rom Com’s give me a good mafia flick any day.... 

Twilight or Hunger Games? 

I am ducking my head in shame (again). I haven’t read or watched either.

Lipstick, lipgloss or chapstick? 

Chapstick.  I look funny with lip color...

Facebook or Twitter

It took me a while to fall in love with it, but now I love Twitter!  I adore how you can really search for stuff. I have learned a lot on twitter... 


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

Totally by the seat of my pants (and in the shower). I get my best ideas there!


Dangled Carat

Hilary had gotten used to dating the commitment-phobic Marc, thirteen years her senior. They had a great relationship--why rush into things? She saw no need to pressure him for marriage, believing that when the time was right, he would propose. But after they had been together for four years, their friends decided to take matters into their own hands, pushing Marc to propose and making Hilary realize how much she really did want to marry the man that she loved. Unfortunately, Marc still wasn't ready--and their friends' meddling in the form of a faux engagement party led to a disastrous New Year's Eve that brought their relationship to an inevitable turning point.

Available at:
Amazon Barnes & Noble Kindle

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Safe with Me by Amy Hatvany

5 Star

A novel about two mothers and one daughter who are linked by tragedy and bound by secrets, from the acclaimed author of Heart Like Mine. Now, in the provocative Safe with Me, Amy Hatvany explores controversial and timely issues with astonishing emotional complexity.

The screech of tires brought Hannah Scott’s world as she knew it to a devastating end. Even a year after she signed the papers to donate her daughter’s organs, Hannah is still reeling with grief when she unexpectedly stumbles into the life of the Bell family, whose child, Maddie, survived only because hers had died. Mesmerized by this fragile connection to her own daughter and afraid to reveal who she actually is, Hannah develops a surprising friendship with Maddie’s mother, Olivia.

The Bells, however, have problems of their own. Once on the verge of leaving her wealthy but abusive husband, Olivia now finds herself bound to him as never before in the wake of the successful transplant that saved their fifteen-year-old daughter’s life. Meanwhile Maddie, tired of the limits her poor health puts upon her and fearful of her father’s increasing rage, regularly escapes into the one place where she can be anyone she wants: the Internet. But when she is finally healthy enough to return to school, the real world proves to be just as complicated as the isolated bubble she had been so eager to escape.


Sabrina-Kate - 5 Star

I will make no secret of the fact that I have long been a fan of Amy Hatvany and consider her one of my favourite authors. Safe with Me was no exception so I was very pleased to be reading it and even felt blessed at times. 

The story has many gripping facets and I believe I read it in a day or, at most, two. What I love most about Amy`s characters is that they are people you care about intensely and almost immediately. The story was a difficult one in many ways as it dealt with loss and organ donation, abuse and the ramifications. Yet the characters made you love them and hope for them despite or maybe because of these very things.

This book felt so brutally honest and true that it was difficult to read at times yet so compelling and heartfelt. I often had tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat while reading this. As much as I wanted to just keep reading this book and finding out what was going to happen next, at times I had to put it down and take a few breaths which shows just how powerful it is.

I am definitely counting Safe with Me as one of my favourite reads of this year and highly recommend it to anyone who loves an emotional and satisfying read.

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

Connect with Amy Hatvany:
Website     Facebook     Twitter     Goodreads


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Two Sisters by Mary Hogan

3.5 Star

One family, two sisters, a lifetime of secrets . . .

The third child in a family that wanted only two, Muriel Sullivant has always been an outsider. Short, dark-haired and round, she worships her beautiful blonde sister, Pia, and envies the close bond she shares with their mother, Lidia. Growing up in their shadow, Muriel believes that if she keeps all their secrets—and she knows plenty, outsiders always do—they will love her, too.

But that was a long time ago. Now an adult, Muriel has accepted the disappointments in her life. With her fourth-floor walk-up apartment and entry-level New York City job, she never will measure up to Pia and her wealthy husband, their daughter, and their suburban Connecticut dream home. Muriel would like nothing better than to avoid her judgmental family altogether. One thing she does quite well.

Until the day Pia shows up to visit and share devastating news that Muriel knows she cannot tell—a secret that will force her to come to terms with the past and help her see her life and her family in unexpected new ways.



Kathryn - 3.5 Star

Two Sisters was not at all what I expected when I started reading- I’m not sure what I was thinking it was going to be but I certainly didn’t think the intensity of the situations that unfolded would be so dramatic. The novel was intense certainly and there were a multitude of issues covered in the story line, I’m not sure I really liked it though.

I found Hogan wrote well and developed her characters with intention, the plot overall certainly made sense and there were all sorts of moments that I was engrossed in what was happening. I think I’m still dwelling on a few things that were left unexplained or unexplored though. It would have been good for me to see a bit more of Owen, the father, and his interactions with his daughters. We are only given a glimpse into his grown up life once he marries their mother Lidia and there must have been more of a story to their marriage than we were given.  

The centre of the plot revolves around Muriel, the third child who doesn’t fit into the family, and her relationship with her older sister Pia (the apple of her mother’s eye).  Pia delivers devastating news to Muriel that opens up their contact and invites a new understanding of each other- but it’s come too late to really count and in effect that ended up being depressing. It was realistic and made me think, but also made me feel awful for both of them. However, it turns out that other familial contact is created in due course, perhaps softening the blow for both myself and Muriel.  Muriel was given at least one good friend, her boss and I did feel the bond between them but we could have been given more there too.

Having worked through my thoughts I’m still on the fence about Two Sisters in terms of a top rating but I did respect the writing and the plot, even if I didn’t like it wholeheartedly.


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

Connect with Mary Hogan:


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

How to Get a (Love) Life by Rosie Blake

3.5 Star

Some people book last-minute holidays, walk barefoot in the grass or party on a week night. Not Nicola Brown. Nicola is the kind of girl who double-locks the front door, leaves the plastic covering on new furniture, sticks to a super-strict diet and definitely, absolutely Does Not Date.

Her colleague Caroline – loopy, warm and exasperated by her, knows that Nicola's reluctance to lose control means she's living only half a life. And so she lays down the gauntlet: Nicola must cast aside her hang ups and go on as many dates as it takes to find true love in time for Valentine's Day.

The pick of local men is, quite frankly, a bit rubbish. And there are only three months until February 14th. Surely it's an impossible task? But, as Nicola is about to find out on her dodgy dates, letting go isn't quite as scary as she imagined. In fact, it's rather a lot of fun...


Kaley - 3.5 Star

How to Get a (Love) Life had all the elements of a great chick lit novel – bright coloured cover, British, seemingly daunting task with a deadline, and lots of dating. Unfortunately, Rosie Blake's novel didn't thrill me as I'd hoped. This wasn't a bad novel but it left me wanting more.

I've probably mentioned it here before but I'll say it again: I'm a big character girl. If I don't click with the main character, I'm likely not going to click with the rest of the novel. This was, I think, my biggest problem with this book. Nicola sort of got on my nerves. I couldn't understand why she wouldn't open herself up to a new relationship (we eventually learn why she's so skittish but it takes a long time for that info to come to light). I was also annoyed by her rigid rules. She lives by a schedule but that's not really living. I'm not judging her for having her set ways, I'm just saying that, in my opinion, Nicola and her personality didn't really work as a chick lit heroine.

I usually love when I don't know who the main character is going to end up with at the end of the novel. In this case, I was actually really surprised when feelings started to develop between Nicola and the eventual leading man. I think she was, too. Which was actually quite nice and a departure from the norm (when you totally have the romance figured out), but also sort of strange. The best way I can describe the way I felt is by comparing this book to the movie The Proposal with Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds. They don't really appear to fit together as a couple so it's sort of a surprise when they do admit they've fallen for each other. I have no idea if that helped clear things up or not!

Reading as Nicola went on disastrous date after date was probably my favourite part of the novel. She gets into all sorts of awkward situations (one of her dates decides sea kayaking is a good idea...it was November) and it was fun to see how she handled herself. I loved the scenes in her carpentry class the most, I think. I loved how she felt so accomplished after making her tray and how she was able to make friends with some of her classmates.

Overall, How to Get a (Love) Life wasn't a winner for me but that doesn't mean that could be the case for everyone else. I heard from multiple people that they loved Rosie Blake's debut novel so she's obviously done something right! Check this one out if you're looking for a light read that will make you smile.


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

Connect with Rosie Blake:



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