Sunday, July 5, 2015

A Song for Issy Bradley Carys Bray

3 Star

The Bradleys see the world as a place where miracles are possible, and where nothing is more important than family. This is their story.

It is the story of Ian Bradley—husband, father, math teacher, and Mormon bishop—and his unshakeable belief that everything will turn out all right if he can only endure to the end, like the pioneers did. It is the story of his wife, Claire, her lonely wait for a sign from God, and her desperate need for life to pause while she comes to terms with tragedy.

And it is the story of their children: sixteen-year-old Zippy, experiencing the throes of first love; cynical fourteen-year-old Al, who would rather play soccer than read the Book of Mormon; and seven-year-old Jacob, whose faith is bigger than a mustard seed—probably bigger than a toffee candy, he thinks—and which he’s planning to use to mend his broken family with a miracle.

Sabrina-Kate - 3 Star

After reading this book, I could not figure out exactly why the title was chosen. Which bothered me. A lot. Although Issy Bradley was one of the characters of the story, the story did not entirely focus on her nor did it explain what a song for Issy Bradley even really meant.

The story did have its merits and the characters were fairly interesting however I kept waiting for something more to happen and sadly nothing ever really did. I understand that it is a story about a family grieving and trying to muddle their way through that but it also seemed to just plod along without much really happening.

The part of the book that I found interesting was the Mormon aspect of it. I liked that I came to understand this religion a little bit more and even some of the misconceptions were cleared up by the author like how Mormons are sometimes confused with Jehovah's Witnesses. This is a religion that I definitely don't know much about but that I find interesting in its own way. It was also interesting to see an English family being Mormon as I had never considered that they existed outside of North America.

This story did have its moments but I was sadly disappointed though I am not quite sure where I expected it to go. I just expected it to go somewhere, anywhere from where it started off really.

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

Connect with Carys Bray:
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Friday, July 3, 2015

The Creatives by Lindsay Lewis

3 Star

Like all cubical-bound underlings at Stranton Advertising, Lissy Swanson is desperate to become a Creative. Her impossibly chic superiors enjoy liquid lunches at hip restaurants where intricate bits of sushi are served on bare midsections of androgynous models while she buries herself in dreaded data entry. 

When her dreams of Creativedom are finally realized, Lissy is thrilled to work on her first real account - a new drug that scorches fat, bronzes skin and fires up dormant libidos: the Barbie Pill. She plans the perfect campaign, targeting new mothers dying to shed baby weight and rekindle their more adult desires. 

When Lissy discovers the beauty pill's ugly secret, she must choose between a promising new love interest and succeeding in the glossy world of Los Angeles advertising.

Kathryn - 3 Star

There was something about Lissy that drew me in from the very first pages and I was interested in reading about her rise through the ad agency.  Lissy’s personal characteristics were well thought out and supported by the relationships she had with her sister and her mother.  They gave me the background needed to understand why she was the person she was today.

I was disappointed though that her sister was so irresponsible and that Lissy seemed to bail her out repeatedly without any kind of repercussions. I know that Lissy felt like the “lesser” sister but there was no reason to allow herself to be completely walked all over.  That she (twice) exchanged a first class flight into two coach tickets so her sister could go with her made me cringe.  At some point there has to be a line drawn and Lissy should have been allowed to enjoy her success.

I’ve read about such companies that take their staff on first class holidays to recharge. I’ve never worked for one myself but it sounds pretty fantastic.  What a great way to have a holiday that doesn’t count as holiday!  I was hoping we’d be given more of Lissy’s obvious skills in the advertising department. I could have used more action in that area before the very end of the novel.  She went from administrative clerk to a top creative position with a tiny one-line ad. I would have liked to have some back-story of her abilities to add credibility to her rise in position.  The pinnacle of the novel comes towards the end and I did read quickly to find out what happened with "the barbie pill".

I’d be happy to read another novel by Lindsay Lewis because I liked aspects of The Creatives and would be interested to see what she writes next!

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

Connect with Lindsay Lewis:

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Unbecoming by Rebecca Scherm

3.5 Star

On the grubby outskirts of Paris, Grace restores bric-a-brac, mends teapots, re-sets gems. She calls herself Julie, says she’s from California, and slips back to a rented room at night. Regularly, furtively, she checks the hometown paper on the Internet. Home is Garland, Tennessee, and there, two young men have just been paroled. One, she married; the other, she’s in love with. Both were jailed for a crime that Grace herself planned in exacting detail. The heist went bad—but not before she was on a plane to Prague with a stolen canvas rolled in her bag. And so, in Paris, begins a cat-and-mouse waiting game as Grace’s web of deception and lies unravels—and she becomes another young woman entirely.

Michelle - 3.5 Star

While the pace of the book and story developed slowly and never really had any climatic moments, I found myself absorbed in the story none the less. 

I found my empathy for the characters constantly shifting, sometimes I was rooting for Grace to end up with Riley and other times with Alls.  Sometimes I found myself hoping that Grace would end up with her happy ending and then at times I found myself wanting her to end up miserable.   My feelings toward the characters was shifting constantly throughout he novel and even when I was done reading the book I still did not know quite how I felt about Grace, Riley or Alls.  

Grace is a chameleon of sorts and as the story evolves I was never sure whether Grace was a victim of unfortunate circumstances or a master manipulator. .  At first I felt sorry for Grace, growing up in a home she felt displaced in and looking for acceptance and love, which she found in her boyfriend’s home.  Riley’s parents even give her her own room and treat her like the daughter they never had. It seems for a while Grace has found her happy ending until suddenly things seem to shift.  We begin slowly to see another side of Grace.  Is she simply a bored and intelligent young lady trapped in a small town with an unambitious boyfriend that is holding her back or is she a selfish, spoiled manipulative girl who is only looking out for herself?   

Grace and Riley are childhood sweethearts who at times, seem like they are perfect for each other, but as the novel unfold it becomes clear that is not the case.  Grace it seems has come to almost loathe Riley and seems to be manipulating him so that she can achieve the life she really wants…with Riley’s best friend Alls.  Seems Grace has it all figured out until her master plan falls apart and Riley and Alls end up in Jail and Grace begins a new life with a new identity in Europe. 

When Riley and Alls are released from prison we begin to learn more and more about Grace’s past and learn that even if you try to run from the past it will eventually catch up to you. 

This book did keep my interest and the story did have quite a few surprises I didn’t expect.  I would recommend it.

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

Connect with Rebecca Scherm:

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

I Don't Have A Happy Place by Kim Korson

4 Star

When a trip to the therapist ends with the question “Can’t Kim be happy?” Kim Korson responds the way any normal person would—she makes fun of it. Because really, does everyone have to be happy?

Aside from her father wearing makeup and her mother not feeling well (a lot), Kim Korson’s 1970s suburban upbringing was typical. Sometimes she wished her brother were an arsonist just so she’d have a valid excuse to be unhappy. And when life moves along pretty decently--she breaks into show business, gets engaged in the secluded jungles of Mexico, and moves her family from Brooklyn to dreamy rural Vermont—the real despondency sets in. It’s a skill to find something wrong in just about every situation, but Kim has an exquisite talent for negativity. It is only after half a lifetime of finding kernels of unhappiness where others find joy that she begins to wonder if she is even capable of experiencing happiness.

Sabrina-Kate - 4 Star

I always have enjoyed short stories and when those short stories are autobiographical and also somewhat hilarious and abnormal at the same time, you have a winner in my book! I probably also really enjoyed this book because Kim grew up in Montreal, where I live, and also lived in Brooklyn and Vermont, both of which I love. I always enjoy stories that take place in places dear to my heart and I am sure that this is reason alone for these stories to appeal to others as well.

The stories themselves wove a bigger tale of her life but each could stand alone which made this an easy read because I found that I could easily take a break without losing momentum or forgetting anything essential to the story. 

Kim Korson definitely has a great talent in writing witty stories with just that type of off beat humor that I really do enjoy. Partly tongue-in-cheek at times and cringe worthy in others, I appreciated her brutal honesty and outright bravery in recounting some of these very personal stories.

The entire premise of the book is about how some people can never find happiness. Or can they? Being somewhat of a lifetime malcontent, I found myself relating with these stories and the bigger message they were sending and chuckling to myself at times in recognition of actual thoughts I would probably have shared with the author in the same situation. For anyone who has had these somewhat dark and despairing thoughts, this book will strike a chord in your deep and dark soul.

Thank tou to Gallery for our review copy.  All opinions are our own.

Connect with Kim Korson:
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Monday, June 29, 2015

Would you rather...with Holly Schindler

Please welcome Holly Schindler, author of Fifth Avenue Fidos.

Holly Schindler:


Holly Schindler is a hybrid author whose work has received starred reviews in Booklist and Publishers Weekly, has won silver and gold medals in ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year and the IPPY Awards, respectively, has been featured on Booklist’s Best First Novels for Youth and School Library Journal’s What’s Hot in YA, and has been a PW Pick of the Week. 

Her next YA, SPARK, is due out from HarperCollins in ’16. Her next independent project is PLAY IT AGAIN, the sequel to PLAYING HURT. 

Connect with Holly:
Website    Facebook     Twitter   Goodreads

Would You Rather... 
with Holly Schindler

Chips, chocolate or cheese?

Chocolate cheesecake.

Bridget Jones, Becky Bloomwood or Carrie Bradshaw?


Wine, beer or vodka?

Fave cocktail’s actually a gin and tonic.

Camping or spa vacation?

How about a spa where I can take my dog?

Water or mountains?

Definitely the water. It keeps showing up in my books— A BLUE SO DARK begins and ends with a vacation to the ocean. PLAYING HURT—and its forthcoming sequel, PLAY IT AGAIN—both take place at a lake resort. FERAL takes place in the midst of an ice storm.

Zombies or vampires?

I prefer ghost stories.

Dogs or cats?

I’ve had animals my entire life—as do most of my characters! Dogs are obviously featured front and center in my latest, FIFTH AVENUE FIDOS—Innis, the Pekingese, is based loosely on my own Peke, Jake! Cats run amok in my last YA, FERAL…I also grew up with two cats I adored (one of them, Tuffy, was born feral).

Coke or Pepsi?

I’m a Squirt kind of gal.

Coffee or tea?

Coffee. No doubt.

Dine out or take away?

I take out. Eat with my dog. (You’re getting a definite love me, love my dog theme here, aren’t you?)

High heels, sneakers or flip flops?

Mostly, I’m in flats.

Physical Book or ebook?

I love my e-reader; I also love the possibility e-readers have opened up for me as an author. Independent releases are allowing me to explore new avenues—and to continue to release fresh new material between what can often be painfully long gaps between traditional releases. 

Paperback or Hardcover?

I love old hard-to-find first editions.

Pen or pencil?


Mad Men, Downton Abbey or Breaking Bad?

Breaking Bad.

Drama or comedy?

The older I get, the more I find myself gravitating toward comedy. I don’t think anything reveals a character’s world view quite like their sense of humor.

Twilight or Hunger Games?


Lipstick, lipgloss or chapstick?

Lipstick. I have 15 tubes in my purse right now. That’s not a typo.

Facebook or Twiter?


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

Plot. Definitely. I recently started using Scrivener, and it’s perfect for plotting your book out before you get started. (Takes a bit of the nerve-wracking component out of it, too, if you know where you’re going.)

Fifth Avenue Fidos

Ever felt like a dog? I mean a real mutt. So did Mable…until she realized she was starring in her own fairy tale.

“Once upon a time, in a magical metropolitan kingdom…” 

OR: When a mutt from Queens meets a purebred Upper East Side New Yorker, it takes man’s—and woman’s—best friend to convince them what they feel is more than puppy love. 

When Mable Barker snags a job walking a snarly Fifth Avenue Pekingese belonging to the shy veterinarian, Jason Mead, she expects to spend her days dealing with yet another creature’s crap—figuratively and literally…Only to find that love is unleashed, as she and Jason fall for the Peke and for each other. But can three imperfect beings create utter perfection at the Westminster Dog Show? 

Fifth Avenue Fidos offers a smart, sweet romantic comedy, using the conventions of fairy tales to explore what “happily ever after” means. A heartwarming story of love and dreams in dog-eat-dog NYC.

Available at:


Saturday, June 27, 2015

Adult Onset by Ann-Marie MacDonald

3.5 Star

Mary-Rose MacKinnon--nicknamed MR or "Mister"--is a successful YA author who has made enough from her writing to semi-retire in her early 40s. She lives in a comfortable Toronto neighbourhood with her partner, Hilary, a busy theatre director, and their 2 young children, Matthew and Maggie, trying valiantly and often hilariously to balance her creative pursuits with domestic demands, and the various challenges that (mostly) solo parenting presents. As a child, Mary-Rose suffered from an illness, long since cured and "filed separately" in her mind. But as her frustrations mount, she experiences a flare-up of forgotten symptoms which compel her to rethink her memories of her own childhood and her relationship with her parents. With her world threatening to unravel, the spectre of domestic violence raises its head with dangerous implications for her life and that of her own children. 

Kathryn - 3.5 Star

Adult Onset is a slow but intense read. The internal narrative by Marie Rose versus what’s actually happening around her often becomes twisted together so you’re unclear what is current and what is in her past.   Although integrate it was as if you were reading through a haze which mirrors Marie Rose’s unravelling of her own thoughts.

There is a lot to discover in this novel and a lot being explored- from simple family relationships to a more complicated history between the members. We are also exposed to a rare medical condition and its’ implications when Marie Rose tries to discover the source.  I found most of the novel a bit sad- I think it’s a testament to the author though that you still wanted to keep on reading and that there were some relationships that were so deep with love that you had to continue to see how they survived.
Although there were very few funny moments I actually found the most light-heartedness in Marie-Rose’s thoughts when dealing with her small children, largely on her own. Unfortunately, she is battling with her own dark thoughts at times and feels as if her rage at her children is ominous, to me though her feelings were quite normal for most parents and I challenge a parent to say they have never wanted to grab a child by the arm or shout at the top of their lungs.

I wish the novel had explored Marie-Rose’s relationship with her sister a bit more. I feel there was a lot there that would have helped her uncover her truths and I wished a bit that there had been more current scenes between her and Hilary- not just phone conversations. I felt their love but wished we’d “seen” it with them together.   There was also some repetitiveness that could have perhaps been removed to make the story flow more easily.

I enjoyed Adult Onset, it was fascinating, intriguing and opened my eyes but wished it had been a bit faster paced.

All opinions are our own.

Connect with Ann-Marie MacDonald:
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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

All The Single Ladies by Dorothea Benton Frank

4 Star

Few writers capture the complexities, pain, and joy of relationships—between friends, family members, husbands and wives, or lovers—as beloved New York Times bestselling author Dorothea Benton Frank. In this charming, evocative, soul-touching novel, she once again takes us deep into the heart of the magical Lowcountry where three amazing middle-aged women are bonded by another amazing woman’s death.

Through their shared loss they forge a deep friendship, asking critical questions. Who was their friend and what did her life mean? Are they living the lives they imagined for themselves? Will they ever be able to afford to retire? How will they maximize their happiness? Security? Health? And ultimately, their own legacies?

A plan is conceived and unfurls with each turn of the tide during one sweltering summer on the Isle of Palms. Without ever fully realizing how close they were to the edge, they finally triumph amid laughter and maybe even newfound love.

Sabrina-Kate - 4 Star

Dorothea Benton Frank certainly has a very specific type of story that she tells. I love how South Carolina's Lowcountry really comes to life through her writing. I almost feel like I am there while reading her books. I saw someone else review this book, calling it a gem and there is no more apt description.

This is the perfect summer read. A book that has a great story and sucks you in until the very last page, All the Single Ladies focuses on a new group of friends and all of the things they are going through in their lives. I found it interesting and comforting to see how they supported each other and grew close in a short period of time.

The characters felt like friends you already knew or someone you would like to meet. Pleasant and loyal, they were truly a pleasure to get to know throughout the story. I felt like I truly cared about them and wanted them to make it through every tough thing that happened.

The story itself drew me in and kept me interested throughout as an awful lot kept happening to these ladies, but especially to Lisa, who the story focuses on. It was also the type of story that made you want the characters to succeed and probably one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much.

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

Connect with Dorothea Benton Frank:
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