Thursday, October 30, 2014

Tell Me Again How A Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan

5 Star

High-school junior Leila has made it most of the way through Armstead Academy without having a crush on anyone, which is something of a relief. Her Persian heritage already makes her different from her classmates; if word got out that she liked girls, life would be twice as hard. But when a sophisticated, beautiful new girl, Saskia, shows up, Leila starts to take risks she never thought she would, especially when it looks as if the attraction between them is mutual. Struggling to sort out her growing feelings and Saskia's confusing signals, Leila confides in her old friend, Lisa, and grows closer to her fellow drama tech-crew members, especially Tomas, whose comments about his own sexuality are frank, funny, wise, and sometimes painful. Gradually, Leila begins to see that almost all her classmates are more complicated than they first appear to be, and many are keeping fascinating secrets of their own.



Sabrina-Kate - 5 Star

Tell Me Again How A Crush Should Feel was not my usual type of read as it apparently fell under the YA category but I had heard so many positive things about Sara Farizan that I decided I needed to read it and see what all the fuss was about. I quickly grew to love Farizan's characters and the writing so everything I had heard about her fell into place right away.

This was the story of Leila and her fears about being accepted as a lesbian, not only by her Persian family but also by her peers. It was a very emotional read as I can only imagine what a difficult situation it would be for a young person to find themselves in.

The interesting thing about this book was that even though Leila was scared of being judged, she also had her own pre-conceived notions about what gay people were like- she even wrongly believed certain girls at her school were lesbians. Ironically, these were also the most accepting of her which I felt was a nice life lesson to include in the book.

Tell Me Again How A Crush Should Feel should be mandatory reading for all young people as it teaches us to tolerate and even embrace differences. It brings a very human and personal view to what it must feel like to be different.


Thank you to Algonquin Young Readers for our review copy. All opinions are our own.

Connect with Sara Farizan:


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Sweetshop of Dreams by Jenny Colgan

3.5 Star

Rose is about to get a taste of the sweet life

Rosie Hopkins's life is...comfortable. She has a steady nursing job, a nice apartment, and Gerard, her loyal (if a bit boring) boyfriend. And even though she might like to pursue a more rewarding career, and Gerard doesn't seem to have any plans to propose, Rosie's not complaining. Things could be worse. Right?

Life gets a bit more interesting when Rosie's mother sends her out to the country to care for her ailing great aunt Lilian, who owns an old-fashioned sweetshop. But as Rosie gets Lilian back on her feet, breathes a new life into the candy shop, and gets to know the mysterious and solitary Stephen whose family seems to own the entire town she starts to think that settling for what's comfortable might not be so great after all.



Kathryn - 3.5 Star

Sweetshop of Dreams is a lovely little tale full of sugary treats and sweet relationships and is a good book to curl up with and while away an afternoon.

My first impression of Rosie was probably what we were supposed to feel -I wanted to kick her up the backside and send her on a life changing quest away from her mundane life.  We can all get on board with a life changing story and this one showed Rosie the path to a more fulfilling life she wasn’t at all expecting.

When she’s told by her absent mother (absent because she lives in Australia- not absent in that she doesn’t get thoroughly involved in Rosie’s existence!) that she needs to take her qualifications as a nurse down to tend to her elderly great aunt in the middle of nowhere Rosie isn’t too thrilled about the sudden demand.  However, she goes along with the plan because she really can’t think of a good reason to object- which sums Rosie up completely. I liked Rosie and could understand her feeling to not want to rock the boat with her current partner- it’s just that she actually kept telling us that she was sitting on the fence with him. When the heroine freely admits to the reader that she’s a bit stuck then it’s virtually impossible to think she should stick around.  So off she goes to the countryside and meets a relative she hasn’t seen since she was a child. 

Lilian is perfect for her role in Rosie’s life. Curmudgeonly and sarcastic she makes sure Rosie opens herself up to new beginnings.  Jenny Colgan created a vivid character in Lilian who lives in a village full of personalities that came to life on the page, not one of them was out of place or unimaginative and I was pulled into the story completely.

I enjoyed Sweetshop of Dreams, and am not going to give the game away of course, but I would suspect that most won’t find a great many surprises in the plot. However, it’s the way it is delivered that will satisfy your reading needs.


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

Connect with Jenny Colgan:
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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Away From The Dead by Karen Jennings

4 Star

Together the stories highlight facets of African society and in particular South Africa. Karen Jennings has a touching way of writing about the lives of the underdogs. The distinctions between the different layers in society are beautifully captured.

From Dark is a rallying call to remember that illegal mining causes the deaths of hundreds every year.  Zama-zamas (Zulu for ‘chancers’) live underground for months at a time, dying in police raids, fires, cave-ins and poor conditions.





Rebecca - 4 Star

Books of short stories are rarely something that I read, which is silly really as they probably suit my lifestyle better than novels. Post kids my days of being able to sprawl on the couch engrossed in a book for hours on end are long gone along with my ability to wear crop tops, and books that lend themselves to being read piecemeal in the brief few minutes I have between football practice and trampolining class, are probably more practical.

And I must say that Away From The Dead was perfect for this: a slim book I could whip out of my handbag, delve into for a brief few moments and feel transported into South Africa where many of the stories are set. I have been to South Africa once, and whilst this was a trip of a life time I was aware at the time that my experience was by no means typical of the day to day existence experienced by most of it's inhabitants and these stories give a voice to these people with great clarity and skill. Within a few sentences Jennings sets the scene and her characterisation is deft and feels authentic. In fact she is almost too good at this, too efficient and I found myself wanting the stories to last longer, to say and develop more. On several occasions I almost felt she was teasing me the reader, with a fantastic opening chapter to a story that never gets told.

Jennings is seriously talented and I would definitely read her next book but I just hope it's a novel...

Thank you to Holland Park Press for our review copy. All opinions are our own.

Connect with Karen Jennings:



Monday, October 27, 2014

For Once In My Life by Marianne Kavanagh

5 Star

Everyone has a soul mate... but what if you never find each other?

Meet Tess. A vintage clothes–obsessive, she’s trapped in a frighteningly grown-up customer relations job she loathes. Still, she’s been dating the gorgeous accountant Dominic since university, and has a perfectly lovely flat, which she shares with her best friend, Kirsty. But if her life is so perfect, why does she tear up whenever anyone mentions her future?

Meet George. He’s a brilliant jazz musician who spends almost as much time breaking up fights between his bickering band mates as he does worrying about his ailing father and living up to his stockbroker girlfriend’s very high expectations. For a guy who has always believed in romance, the grim practicalities of twenty-something life have come as something of a shock. Seemingly always on the verge of a big break, he’s looking for something more...something special.

They just might be two halves of one perfect whole. Now, if only they could manage to cross paths...


Sabrina-Kate - 5 Star

For Once In My Life is a completely original take on love and those missed connections. I loved this story from the beginning. I had originally spotted it on an author’s Facebook page as it was what she was reading at the time and because I love what she writes, I knew that I had to give it a chance. And am I ever happy that I did!

Now that I am happily partnered up and with a family, I know that we were in many places at the same time and also that we had many friends in common so this story of missed opportunities was something I found interesting as I could easily imagine it happening to anyone, even in my very own life.

I don’t know if I agree with the concept of soulmates though I do know that people connect in special ways and I can tell that these two characters had a deep connection despite all the reasons that they might never had connected. Sometimes I found it frustrating when Tess and George would miss meeting up by some circumstance out of their control so once they finally did meet up, I had already been anticipating the moment for what felt like ages.

I absolutely loved the unique way Kavanagh described things. It was extremely enjoyable for me to read every sentence because you never knew what she would say next. For Once In My Life was funny and entertaining. It reiterated for me that sometimes it takes awhile to find the one you love and that many many things can happen along the way.

Another astonishing debut for me! 

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

Connect with Marianne Kavanagh:
Website      Twitter      Goodreads


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Would You Rather... with M.L. Longworth

Please welcome M.L. Longworth, author of Murder on the Ile Sordou.


M.L. LONGWORTH :

 

M.L. LONGWORTH has lived in Aix-en-Provence since 1997. She has written about the region for The Washington Post, The Times (U.K.), The Independent (U.K.), and Bon Appetit Magazine. She is the author of a bilingual collection of essays, Une Américaine en Provence published by La Martinière in 2004. She divides her time between Aix and Paris, where she teaches writing at NYU's Paris campus. You can visit her website at mllongworth.com.

Connect with M.L. Longworth:
Website    Facebook     Twitter   Goodreads

Would You Rather... 
with M.L. Longworth 

Chips, chocolate or cheese?

Cheese. Tough call as I love salty foods, especially chips, but living in France for so long I have to say cheese. Especially chevre (goat cheese).


Bridget Jones, Becky Bloomwood or Carrie Bradshaw?

Bridget Jones. I don’t know who Becky Bloomwood is, and Carrie wasn’t my favorite Sex and the City character. Miranda was, and Samantha.


Wine, beer or vodka?

Wine. No contest.


Camping or spa vacation?

Neither. I hate camping and spas bore me to tears. I like travelling to big cities and visiting museums, walking neighborhoods, and eating the local foods.


Water or mountains?

Water, especially the Mediterranean.


Zombies or vampires?

Neither.


Dogs or cats?

Neither.


Coke or Pepsi?

Neither. YUK.


Coffee or tea?

Coffee. Illy. 


Dine out or take away?

Dine out.


High heels, sneakers or flip flops?

High heels, although I’m wearing my bright green sneakers more and more when walking in Paris.


Physical Book or ebook?

Physical book.


Paperback or Hardcover?

Paperback for the lightness factor, but I love, and buy, beautiful hardback editions of my favorite books.


Pen or pencil?

Pencil. For corrections.


Mad Men, Downton Abbey or Breaking Bad?

Downton Abbey.


Drama or comedy?

Comedy.


Twilight or Hunger Games?

NEITHER.


Lipstick, lipgloss or chapstick?

Lipstick.


Facebook or Twiter?

Facebook.


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

Plot it out first.



Murder on the Ile Sordou 

Maxime and Catherine Le Bon have spent their life savings restoring the Locanda, which lies in an archipelago of glittering islands off the coast of Marseille. To celebrate the grand opening, a motley crew of privileged guests join Verlaque and Bonnet: Marine’s best friend, the free-spirited Sylvie; a pompous fading film star and his much-younger wife and her disgruntled son; an eccentric poet; a pair of American tourists; and a querulous Parisian couple. The murder of one of the guests casts a shadow over everyone’s vacation, and Verlaque and Bonnet are once again called to investigate. But things go from bad to worse when a violent storm cuts off all communication with the mainland. Will the killer strike again?

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Finding Mother by Anne Allen

3 Star

Three women. Three generations. Sacrifices for love… 
Who is she really? Nicole is about to find out as she searches for her real mother; the woman who gave her away at birth. With her marriage in tatters, she sets out from England: travelling to Spain, Jersey and Guernsey before the extraordinary story of her real family is finally revealed.

Nicole becomes an unwitting catalyst for change in the family. Two women are forced to reveal long-buried secrets. One going back as far as the Second World War. Lives are transformed as choices have to be made and the past laid to rest…


Kathryn - 3 Star

I really think the next place to visit on my list should be Guernsey or Jersey (probably both- you shouldn’t just pick one, right?) I seem to be drawn to these places intensely and appreciated the author’s descriptions when setting her scenes.  I read the book trying not to google images of these lovely islands and to concentrate on the story at hand.

Finding Mother isn’t exactly what I was expecting. I thought, from the book's synopsis, that we would be mostly following Nicole’s search for her birth parents and instead we found them almost right away and the rest of the novel unfolded after their meeting. The “action” was therefore right at the start of the book and I found the rest meandered slowly and pleasantly along much as I would imagine the pace of life on the islands would do. That’s not to say that there weren’t some interesting titbits of information leaked into the plot throughout and I enjoyed the story line- it just wasn’t what I had been expecting.

The author created some multi-layered characters and relationships however I didn’t care for all of them! Nicole was a very strange enigma for me as at first she seemed so forthright and determined to leave her philandering husband. She had quite a high powered job for which she obviously had to have her head screwed on properly but she didn’t seem to have much of the same characteristics once she stepped back on to the island where she grew up. I was also really disappointed with the links with her adoptive parents who could have been given more gumption when confronted with their daughter’s marital collapse and subsequent life changing decisions.  They faded into the background which wasn't at all realistic- Nicole even forgets to call them with updates for much of the novel.  However I really loved her birth grandmother- she was just the right mix of tough nut and soft place to fall. 

There’s a lot to enjoy about Finding Mother and I read the whole thing happily and contentedly, no great surprises but some interesting bonds were formed which made the novel a good read.


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

Connect with Anne Allen:
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Friday, October 24, 2014

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

5 Star

Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet . . . So begins the story of this exquisite debut novel, about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee; their middle daughter, a girl who inherited her mother’s bright blue eyes and her father’s jet-black hair. Her parents are determined that Lydia will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue—in Marilyn’s case that her daughter become a doctor rather than a homemaker, in James’s case that Lydia be popular at school, a girl with a busy social life and the center of every party.

When Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together tumbles into chaos, forcing them to confront the long-kept secrets that have been slowly pulling them apart. James, consumed by guilt, sets out on a reckless path that may destroy his marriage. Marilyn, devastated and vengeful, is determined to find a responsible party, no matter what the cost. Lydia’s older brother, Nathan, is certain that the neighborhood bad boy Jack is somehow involved. But it’s the youngest of the family—Hannah—who observes far more than anyone realizes and who may be the only one who knows the truth about what happened.


Sabrina-Kate - 5 Star

Another great read from a debut author. Everything I Never Told You had me captivated from the beginning despite being based on a story that I felt I may have heard before. The author took what could have been just an ordinary story and made it into something very unique.

This story goes back and forth between the past and present, ultimately using the stories in the past to explain the terrible thing that has happened in the present day. I found it very interesting to see how the characters evolved over time due to circumstance and found it quite astonishing to see just how much they had changed from their original feelings and desires.

The story was not a happy one by any means but one that will stick in my mind and heart for a long time to come. It is quite sad how stress and pressure can have such a devastating and lasting impact on a family. Being a mother, that fact alone was a real eye opener for me.

This book was a stand out experience for many reasons but mostly because of the extremely painful moments that were so beautifully described by this extremely talented author. I could not fathom some of the experiences they had to endure as a Chinese American family and felt like Ng was just brilliant at describing them.

Everything I Never Told You swept me along and did not disappoint and kept my heart breaking over and over with each new revelation. A definite must read of this year.

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

Connect with Celeste Ng:
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