Saturday, February 18, 2017

Leopard at the door by Jennifer McVeigh

5 Star

After six years in England, Rachel has returned to Kenya and the farm where she spent her childhood, but the beloved home she’d longed for is much changed. Her father’s new companion—a strange, intolerant woman—has taken over the household. The political climate in the country grows more unsettled by the day and is approaching the boiling point. And looming over them all is the threat of the Mau Mau, a secret society intent on uniting the native Kenyans and overthrowing the whites.

As Rachel struggles to find her place in her home and her country, she initiates a covert relationship, one that will demand from her a gross act of betrayal. One man knows her secret, and he has made it clear how she can buy his silence. But she knows something of her own, something she has never told anyone. And her knowledge brings her power.




Kathryn - 5 Star

At the beginning of the novel I was mostly concerned with Rachel and her plans for her future. I held her in my heart as a parent for a child and also as a child yearning for connection again with her parent. Her early childhood had been filled with idyllic happiness which was abruptly broken by the death of her mother so her sense of abandonment was clear and understandable.  I was nervous about the way her return would affect her and was unimpressed with her father and even more unimpressed with his new fiance.  

Quite apart from Rachel's story there was full thread of narrative around the uprising in Kenya that gradually took over the story.  I felt torn as Michael, Rachel and I'm sure, Rachel's father, felt. Of course I wanted her family and friends to be safe and for the atrocities against other humans to stop- but at the center of the issue was an immense empathy for the Africans trying to regain their heritage, their land and their people. 

I'd like to think that mos‎t expats feel they are sharing a space with those who were there first but perhaps this is a concept only available to a few generations past the ones in this story. I did feel that Rachel's father had respect for the land and the people he was living on but his relationship with Sara seemed to have changed him from the man he had been with his first wife. The author doesn't really address her father's grief of losing her mother which gives us little insight into his thought process.

I did appreciate the descriptions of places, sounds and colours- the connection to the land and the places helped connect me also with the characters.  Leopard at the Door was engrossing- very difficult to read in many places but that should be expected.  

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

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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Valley Fever by Katherine Taylor

3 Star

Ingrid Palamede never returns to the places she's lived. For her, "whole neighborhoods, whole cities, can be ruined by the reasons you left." But when a breakup leaves her heartbroken and homeless, she's forced to return to her childhood home of Fresno, California. Back in the real wine country, where grapes are grown for mass producers, Ingrid must confront her aging parents and their financial woes, soured friendships, and the blissfully bad decisions she made in her past. But along the way she unearths her love for the land, her talent for harvesting grapes, and a deep fondness for and forgiveness of the very first place she ever left.





Sabrina-Kate - 3 Star

I loved the cover from the start so was very hopeful the story would follow suit. Sadly that was not to be the case. Although I can appreciate the returning home to fix your life and make good aspect of the story, the actual writing did not always captivate me. Sometimes I found certain sections to drag on and other times the story was witty, funny and quite entertaining. When books seem to be 'off balance' that way, it makes it tedious for me to read through them as the story does not flow well.  

There was a lot of talking in the book between the characters which helped to resolve issues and make the story evolve, but at one point, I just got so anxious for something to happen and for things to move forward. They did, sort of at least, but not a lot actually happening in the grand scheme of things, so I can't say that the story was well developed. 

What I did find interesting was an insider's look into working on a vineyard and all the different aspects of it. From the day to day, to the politics involved, I think these intricacies was what the book really excelled in, if nothing else. 

For a second novel, after a celebrated first oeuvre, I found this book to be sadly lacking something. I wouldn't recommend it if you are expecting a busy plot line, but if you are curious about Fresno and the agricultural community there, then this may very well sate your curiosity in an entertaining way.

All opinions are our own.

Connect with Katherine Taylor:
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Friday, February 10, 2017

Days like these by Sue Margolis

4 Star

Recently widowed, Judy Schofield jumps at the chance to look after her two grandchildren for six weeks, while their parents are out of the country. After all, she’s already raised one set of children—and quite successfully, if she may say so herself. But all it takes is a few days of private school functions, helicopter parents, video games, and never-ending Frozen sing-a-longs for Judy to feel she’s in over her head.

As weeks become months, Judy feels more and more like an outsider among all the young mothers with their parenting theories du jour, especially when she gets on the wrong side of the school’s snooty alpha mom. But finding a friend in another grandmother—and a man who takes her mind off all the stress—almost make it worthwhile. She just needs to take it one food allergy, one incomprehensible homework assignment, and one major meltdown at a time...


Kathryn - 4 Star


A novel by Sue Margolis rarely fails to make it into my heart. I had laughed more than once and cried before I even got to page 40 in this one which says an abundance of things about the ability of the writer to bring you immediately into a new world and relate it to your own.

Margolis’ ability is in bridging multi-generational situations to make one story a reality-without seeming trite. She’s expressive and honest about the main character’s current stage of life and the language is such that you wouldn’t know what age she was until you’re told or the other characters around her put an age on her.  I suppose I’m of the generation of Judy’s daughter but I see a lot of myself in Judy as well as my own mother and many “aunties” I am lucky enough to have around me.

Judy’s grandson, Sam, is having a hard time at school and there are a few situations that crop up which develop into very serious consequences.  Judy is attempting to address his concerns as a grandparent but also as a temporary parent and she navigates the line as best she can without putting on full mama bear mode.  I actually felt her holding back her need to protect him as she had to keep a line of composure as the grandmother and not destroy her daughter’s relationships at the school.  A very fine line indeed…   

Throughout Days Like These there is the bond between Judy and her own mother that is explored tentatively – it seems that they haven’t always known each other very well.  Despite their ease and teasing of each other there was a lot explored about their bond in the story as well.  Days Like These covers every possible relationship between these four generations and I laughed and cried along with it.

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

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Monday, February 6, 2017

Gaga by Leslie Tall Manning

3 Star

Monty is ready to rock. Funny thing is, she doesn’t know it yet!

When her husband releases her from a stagnant marriage, forty-five-but-looks-thirty Monica Reese Taylor, freelance writer for Home & Goddess Magazine, gets the career opportunity of a lifetime. All she has to do is leave her daughter behind, change her name, dress like a crazed groupie, and for one month follow a comeback rock band as they tour the eastern United States.

But that’s not all: Monty has to spend time with the famous lead guitarist in order to get her story. A hot musician whose poster she kissed every night in her bedroom back in the eighties!

With her undisclosed agenda well hidden beneath Aqua Net, Maybelline, and leather, Monty plays the part of groupie with finesse, never suspecting that her rocker crush has a few tight-lipped secrets of his own…secrets that make hers seem like child’s play…secrets that could change Monty’s life forever.



Michelle - 3 Star

This book took a while for me to get into.  I had to put it down for a while and then pick it up later and give it a second go round. Once I was able to change my mind set and accept that GaGa was a simple, fun read, which at times would make me accept that which was hard to accept, I was able to get into the book and actually enjoy it.

When Monty’s husband decides to end their marriage she is presented with, what many would say, is the adventure of a lifetime, the opportunity to be someone else.  To be a thirty something groupie (even though she is in her mid-forties), and follow your teenage crush on the road and get paid to do it! 

I do appreciate Leslie Tall Mannings desire to present to us a character, Monty, who through her experience transforms from a mild, non-adventurous character, to a woman who really explores who she is and what it is that she is capable of, independent of her husband and her status quo everyday life. 

I would have enjoyed this novel more if it had been a little more relatable and realistic.  Many times when you read a novel you find a way that connects the main character to yourself, whether it be through experiences they have that are similar to ones you have gone through, or you share the same religion or family background.  In GaGa it was hard to connect to the main character and I think this made it hard to initially get drawn into the book. 

I would give this book 3 stars out of 5 as it was light, entertaining and didn’t require a lot of time or emotion to be invested into it.  It did start out slow and at times seemed repetitive and mundane, but got more realistic and somewhat more relatable the more it went along.


All opinions are our own.

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Thursday, February 2, 2017

The City Baker's Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller

4.5 Star

When Olivia Rawlings—pastry chef extraordinaire for an exclusive Boston dinner club—sets not just her flambĂ©ed dessert but the entire building alight, she escapes to the most comforting place she can think of—the idyllic town of Guthrie, Vermont, home of Bag Balm, the country’s longest-running contra dance, and her best friend Hannah. But the getaway turns into something more lasting when Margaret Hurley, the cantankerous, sweater-set-wearing owner of the Sugar Maple Inn, offers Livvy a job. Broke and knowing that her days at the club are numbered, Livvy accepts.Livvy moves with her larger-than-life, uberenthusiastic dog, Salty, into a sugarhouse on the inn’s property and begins creating her mouthwatering desserts for the residents of Guthrie. She soon uncovers the real reason she has been hired—to help Margaret reclaim the inn’s blue ribbon status at the annual county fair apple pie contest.
 With the joys of a fragrant kitchen, the sound of banjos and fiddles being tuned in a barn, and the crisp scent of the orchard just outside the front door, Livvy soon finds herself immersed in small town life. And when she meets Martin McCracken, the Guthrie native who has returned from Seattle to tend his ailing father, Livvy  comes to understand that she may not be as alone in this world as she once thought.
 But then another new arrival takes the community by surprise, and Livvy must decide whether to do what she does best and flee—or stay and finally discover what it means to belong. Olivia Rawlings may finally find out that the life you want may not be the one you expected—it could be even better.



Kathryn - 4.5 Star

I was engrossed by a number of aspects of this novel. The pie, first and foremost, was as engaging as a pie you can’t actually eat can be.  That the author is a pastry chef is apparent from every ingredient to every described morsel. I was fascinated by all parts of the actual baking in this book.  However, apart from the baking there was a host of likeable characters in this story. 

First, Livvy herself was quite charming. I found her to be realistic and had high hopes that such an inn in Vermont did actuallyo exist with Livvy in the kitchen. This hope was coupled with my attachment also for the owner of the inn, Margaret, who was a touch prickly at first but her heart was shown early. You could not help but love her deep (and sometimes hidden) desire to see her staff succeed. I also respected Margaret’s sense of her business and her dedication to the area in which she grew up. There was also a sweet romance unfolding between Livvy and neighbour Martin and it added to the idyllic nature of their surroundings.  I became attached to Martin’s family and the home he grew up in, every new family member of his that we were introduced to (and there were many, many of them) just endeared me more to the town, the family and the whole book.

There were of course a number of frustrations to make you want to smack some sense into people (particularly between Martin and Livvy) which made the novel a little bit long for me. On the whole though, I completely lost myself in the beauty of this small town in Vermont and the baking I could almost taste.


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



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Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Flower Arrangement by Ella Griffin

3.5 Star

Golden peonies bowing their heads beneath blue delphinium bells. Delicate pink anemones threaded between freckled green orchids. Soft apricot roses woven together with velvety purple irises. Every bouquet tells a story. And every story begins at Blossom & Grow, a tiny jewel-like flower shop in the heart of Dublin. Here, among the buckets of fragrant blooms, beneath the flickering candles and lanterns, Lara works her magic. Translating feelings into flower arrangements that change hearts and lives. But what about her own heart? Has she really healed since she lost her chance to be a mother? What will happen when her own story takes a sudden turn? Can the flowers that heal the customers work their magic on the florist? Drawing together a delightful cast of characters, Ella Griffin brings her warmth, wit and wisdom to a captivating tale woven around a Dublin florist.




Kathryn - 3.5 Star

Full confession- I almost put this book down a few times within the first few chapters.  Not because it wasn’t well written or intriguing but because the emotional dance it took through the first few pages made me hurt and I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to be hurting.  I have to confess that there wasn’t much of the lighthearted in this novel.  By the cover you’d expect some lighter romantic notions but I found the whole things very subdued on the romance front and very heavy on the aspect of loss.

I found Lara to be very hopeful at her core but she is plagued by a series of losses in her life that would take their toll on the most upbeat of people. The story centers round her but brings in a number of shorter vignettes by way of the customers in her flower shop. We are given chapters dedicated to a character who passes through Lara’s life and each of their stories has some hardship or joy that draws them to buying a bouquet or an arrangement. The aspect of the flowers for each occasion was a bit lost on me. I’m not sure if this is well known knowledge or something the author gave Lara to focus on, either way it was an interesting addition to their stories. 

Though difficult to read most of the time I did find myself encouraged by Lara and her relationships. There were some wonderful strong people in her life (like her brother and co-worker) who gave the narrative a lift.  On the whole though I’m not sure if I enjoyed the story or simply respected the way it dealt with difficult subjects in a sympathetic way.


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

Connect with Ella Griffin:
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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Two by Two by Nicholas Sparks

5 Star

At 32, Russell Green has it all: a stunning wife, a lovable six year-old daughter, a successful career as an advertising executive and an expansive home in Charlotte. He is living the dream, and his marriage to the bewitching Vivian is the center of that. But underneath the shiny surface of this perfect existence, fault lines are beginning to appear...and no one is more surprised than Russ when he finds every aspect of the life he took for granted turned upside down. In a matter of months, Russ finds himself without a job or wife, caring for his young daughter while struggling to adapt to a new and baffling reality. Throwing himself into the wilderness of single parenting, Russ embarks on a journey at once terrifying and rewarding—one that will test his abilities and his emotional resources beyond anything he ever imagined. 





Sabrina-Kate - 5 Star

Never a huge Nicholas Sparks fan, I got this book awhile ago and let my mom read it first because she loves his writing. Once she commented that it was different from his usual stuff, I was surprised but kept it on my bedside table until I had a moment to pick it up.

Over the holidays, I picked it up and read it within a day, which did not impress my almost-4-year-old, but I was so captivated that I did not want to put it down. It is fairly long, at almost 500 pages but I kept reading ahead, thinking, "One more chapter." The reasons why it seems to be so different, at least for me, is because I feel there is a certain maturity in this book compared to his other work. Less outright happy romance and a more complex plot but of course a lot of happy times.

I was very pleased with the story and how it won this jaded person over, making me believe that fate and kistmet may possibly be things that exist.


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

Connect with Nicholas Sparks: 
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