Thursday, August 21, 2014

Turning Forty by Mike Gayle

4 Star

How to turn forty:

1. Set yourself a personal challenge.

2. Clear wardrobe of all age-inappropriate clothing.

3. Relax.

How not to turn forty:

1. Have a complete meltdown . . .

High flier Matt Beckford's sole ambition is to turn forty with his life sorted. And with a Porsche on the drive and a job that requires him to spend more time in BA's club lounge than his own lounge, it looks like things are going in the right direction. But when Matt's wife unexpectedly calls time on their marriage, a chain of events is set in motion that very quickly sees him facing forty broke, homeless and completely alone.

But all is not lost because Matt has a plan...

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Kathryn - 4 Star

Mike Gayle is one of my favourite authors- I love that he writes novels with feeling from a male perspective. It’s not that he’s trying to express the male perspective as some kind of “how to talk to men” way but more that he’s writing realistic scenarios and pulls out things that run around the male’s thought process without making a big deal out of it being” emotional”.  Perhaps I’m not making any sense? Regardless, I tend to get a lot out of his novels and have been looking forward to each new one for years.

Turning Forty is a continuation of Gayle’s novel Turning Thirty with main character Matt Beckford- who has just split up with his wife and is approaching his fortieth.  He’s being a bit of a baby about the whole forty “thing” and seems to have reached a turning point in every aspect of his life.  Instead of making a plan to sort himself out he spends most of the novel going around in circles and getting himself into heaps of trouble. While doing so though he manages to make some friends, make us laugh and continue the strong bond he has already established with his family. I was frequently frustrated with Matt (as were his parents) and more than once wanted kick him up the backside- however it’s one of the things that makes him so endearing- the fact that he keeps making a mess of things.  I love that Mike Gayle continues to portray men with solid relationships with friends and family. It gives humanity to his novels and creates relatable male characters for female readers.

Matt Beckford does eventually seem to figure out what he wants and I didn’t actually find the outcome of Turning Forty to be predictable.  I did sort of wish though that all the pieces of his life had fallen magically into place- they didn’t- which I suppose is true to life!  Looking forward to hearing how Matt does in another novel in the future- maybe we won’t have to wait so long and it can be titled Turning Forty-Five?

Connect with Mike Gayle:
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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Be Safe I Love You by Cara Hoffman

3 Star

Lauren Clay has returned from a tour of duty in Iraq just in time to spend the holidays with her family. Before she enlisted, Lauren, a classically trained singer, and her brother Danny, a bright young boy obsessed with Arctic exploration, made the most of their modest circumstances, escaping into their imaginations and forming an indestructible bond. Joining the army allowed Lauren to continue to provide for her family, but it came at a great cost.

When she arrives home unexpectedly, it's clear to everyone in their rural New York town that something is wrong. But her father is so happy to have her home that he ignores her odd behavior and the repeated phone calls from an army psychologist. He wants to give Lauren time and space to acclimate to civilian life.

Things seem better when Lauren offers to take Danny on a trip to visit their mother upstate. Instead, she guides them into the glacial woods of Canada on a quest to visit the Jeanne d'Arc basin, the site of an oil field that has become her strange obsession. As they set up camp in an abandoned hunting lodge, Lauren believes she's teaching Danny survival skills for the day when she's no longer able to take care of him.

But where does she think she's going, and what happened to her in Iraq that set her on this path?

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Sabrina-Kate - 3 Star

I feel like Be Safe I Love You was probably very honest about the reality of a returning soldier and I definitely found it raw at times but that made it difficult to read. I did keep having to put it down and convince myself to keep reading it. I am not entirely sure why but something about it bothered me beyond just the obvious subject. I do appreciate that it is not something easy to write about and I also believe that this is probably a story that is true to a soldier's reality and my biggest hurdle was probably that I found the writing, at times, disjointed.

The main character, Lauren, is definitely going through some major changes having returned from her tour of duty. But I got the feeling that there was something going on that started before she went away to war and being on duty definitely did not help the situation. I never really clearly understood if there was more to her before the resulting PTSD or not?  

The story left me unsatisfied because I was expecting something good to happen. Maybe a knight in shining armor or something positive or at least for it to not always be so sad and depressing but that wasn`t to be. Be Safe I Love You is a realistic account but definitely not an easy read.

Thank you to Simon & Schuster for our review copy. All opinions are our own.

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Rufi Thorpe Stranded on a Desert Island

Please welcome Rufi Thorpe, author of The Girls from Corona Del Mar, as she tackles our Desert Island Interview!

About Rufi:

RUFI THORPE received her MFA from the University of Virginia in 2009. Currently, she lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and son. The Girls from Corona del Mar is her first novel.

Connect with Rufi:

Rufi Thorpe Stranded on a Desert Island

1. If you could only have one book with you, what would it be?

The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake. You've got to choose a compendium, right? A novel would get old. A complete Shakespeare would be good too.

2. What one luxury item would you want to be stranded with?

A laptop with a magically limitless battery and good weather proofing.

3. What is the one practical item you would want to have with you to use?

A machete. Obviously.

4. Would you enjoy the solitude, even briefly, or would it drive you crazy?

I enjoy being alone very much, but after years spent alone I am sure I would get pretty weird.

5. If you could be stranded with one other person, who would you want it to be?

If I knew my son was safe and happy at his grandmother's house or something, then I would not wish him the hardship of being stranded on an island, no matter how much I would miss him. So I would have to bring my husband, not only because he is the best and I am in love with him, but because I am pretty sure he could recite most of every episode of It's Always Sunny in Philodelphia. And also, he could finally teach me calculus.

6. What modern technology would you miss the most?

The connectedness to family and the world via phones/internet.

7. What food or beverage would you miss the most?


8. How many days do you think you would cope without rescue?

It depends on how badly I've cut myself with the machete. 

9. What is the first thing you would do when rescued?

Find my son. Take a shower. Ask for a beer.

10. What would be your first Tweet or Facebook update upon your return?

“You know when they show someone on TV washing their hair under a waterfall? That’s f***in’ b****hit, man. Because that thing would knock you on your a**.” – Mitch Hedberg

The Last Boat Home

Mia and Lorrie Ann are lifelong friends: hard-hearted Mia and untouchably beautiful, kind Lorrie Ann. While Mia struggles with a mother who drinks, a pregnancy at fifteen, and younger brothers she loves but can't quite be good to, Lorrie Ann is luminous, surrounded by her close-knit family, immune to the mistakes that mar her best friend's life. Until a sudden loss catapults Lorrie Ann into tragedy: things fall apart, and then fall apart further – and there is nothing Mia can do to help. And as good, kind, brave Lorrie Ann stops being so good, Mia begins to question just who this woman is and what that question means about them both. 

A staggeringly arresting, honest novel of love, motherhood, loyalty, and the myth of the perfect friendship that moves us to ask ourselves just how well we know those we love, what we owe our children, and who we are without our friends.

Available at:
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Monday, August 11, 2014

Dea Brovig Stranded on a Desert Island

Please welcome Dea Brovig, author of The Last Boat Home, as she tackles our Desert Island Interview!

About Dea:

Dea Brøvig moved to the UK from Norway at the age of 17. After graduating from Leeds University, she worked in publishing in London for eight years. She graduated from UEA’s Creative Writing MA in 2009. The Last Boat Home is her first novel.

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Dea Brovig Stranded on a Desert Island

     1. If you could only have one book with you, what would it be?
Ulysses by James Joyce. It’s long, I haven’t read it and really should

2. What one luxury item would you want to be stranded with?
A bag of firelighters. I’m rubbish at building campfires

3. What is the one practical item you would want to have with you to use?
A knife? Matches? Electricity is very practical

4. Would you enjoy the solitude, even briefly, or would it drive you crazy?
I think I’d enjoy the solitude, especially if I like Ulysses as much as I hope to. I’m usually rushed off my feet, so pockets of time that I manage to snatch for myself are precious. More problematic would be the vermin, lack of food and general exposure to the elements

5. If you could be stranded with one other person, who would you want it to be?
My mum. What she lacks in Island Survival Skills she makes up for by being fantastic company

6. What modern technology would you miss the most?
The sort of technology that powers rescue helicopters, especially those fitted with radars designed to locate writers stranded on islands

7. What food or beverage would you miss the most?
I don’t do well without my morning cup of coffee. Island critters, take note

8. How many days do you think you would cope without rescue?
Honestly, maybe four, unless the animals are kind enough to skin themselves

9. What is the first thing you would do when rescued?
Brush my teeth!

10. What would be your first Tweet or Facebook update upon your return?
So what did I miss?

The Last Boat Home

On the wind-swept southern coast of Norway, sixteen-year-old Else is out on the icy sea, dragging her oars through the waves while, above her, storm clouds are gathering. Surrounded by mountains, snow and white-capped water, she looks across the fjord and dreams of another life, of escape and faraway lands.

Back on shore, her father sits alone in his boathouse with a jar of homebrew. In the Best Room, her mother covers her bruises and seeks solace in prayer. Each tries to hide the truth from this isolated, God-fearing community they call home.
Until one night changes everything…

More than thirty years later, the return of an old friend forces Else to relive the events that marked the end of her childhood. 

Available at:


Would You Rather... with Joshilyn Jackson

Please welcome Joshilyn Jackson, author of Someone Else's Love Story.

About Joshilyn:

Joshilyn Jackson is the New York Times bestselling author of six novels, including gods in Alabama and A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty.  Her books have been translated into a dozen languages.  A former actor, Jackson is also an award-winning audiobook narrator.  She lives in Decatur, Georgia, with her husband and their two children.  .

Connect with Joshilyn:

Would You Rather... Joshilyn Jackson

1. Chips, chocolate or cheese?

Yes, please.

2. Bridget Jones, Becky Bloomwood or Carrie Bradshaw?

Bridget Jones

3. Wine, beer or vodka?

Wine. (And here we understand that “wine” sometimes means “bourbon.”)

4. Camping or spa vacation?

Oh, these sound like the opposite ends of the hell- spectrum. One has bugs and sleeping outside. One has strangers touching me with oils and grooming. Can I pick going to museums and eating things in Paris? I pick going to museums and eating things in Paris.

5. Water or mountains?

Yes, please.

6. Zombies or vampires?

Vampires, but not mopey, non-murderous ones who only want to make out with you. I want crafty vicious monstery ones that have to be dragged into the sunlight.

7. Dogs or cats?

I love dogs, but life is untenable without a good cat.

8. Coke or Pepsi?


9. Coffee or tea?


10. Dine out or take away?

Out please, with friends and wine. (And here we understand that “wine” sometimes means “bourbon.”)

11. High heels, sneakers or flip flops?


12. Physical Book or ebook?

I am a dedicated tree-killing paper reader. Love the smell and feel of a good, old-fashioned BOOK.

13. Paperback or Hardcover?

Yes, Please.

14. Pen or pencil?

Pen! Be bold! COMMIT!

15. Mad Men, Downton Abbey or Breaking Bad?

Orphan Black, Game of Thrones, and Firefly.

16. Drama or comedy?

Yes, Please.

17. Twilight or Hunger Games?

Hunger Games, and may the odds be ever in your favor.

18. Lipstick, lipgloss or chapstick?


19. Facebook or Twitter?


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

I always go in thinking toward a destination, but if the characters don’t quickly begin surprising me and sending me in uncomfortable directions, I realize I am not that interested in them, and I pitch the whole thing. Pants, pants, viva la pants, pants forever, pants all the way.

Someone Else's Love Story
For single mom Shadi Pierce, life is a juggling act. She’s finished college, raising precocious three-year-old Natty, and keeping the peace between her eternally warring, long-divorced parents. Then she gets caught in the middle of a stickup at a gas station and falls instantly in love with William Ashe, when he steps between the armed robber and her son.  Shandi doesn’t know that William’s act wasn’t about bravery. When he looked down the barrel of the robber’s gun he believed it was destiny: it’s been exactly one year since a tragic act of physics shattered his universe. But William doesn’t define destiny the way other people do—to him destiny is about choice. Now William and Shandi are about to meet their so-called destinies head-on, making choices that will reveal unexpected truths about love, life, and the world they think they know. 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Would You Rather... with Savannah Page

Please welcome Savannah Page, author of When Girlfriends Let go.

About Savannah:

Savannah Page is the author of the seven-novel When Girlfriends collection, heartfelt women's fiction that celebrates friendship, love, and life sprinkled with drama and humor. When she isn't writing, Savannah enjoys a good book with a latte and jazz tunes, Pilates, and exploring her home of Berlin as an American expat.

Connect with Savannah:

Would You Rather... with Savannah Page

1.      Chips, chocolate or cheese? 

CHEESE! Believe it or not I don’t like chocolate. But give me a round of well-aged gouda, a rich smoked wedge, or melted cheddar and I’m in heaven.

2.      Bridget Jones, Becky Bloomwood or Carrie Bradshaw? 

I love shopping to a terrible fault, so I understand Becky. But Carrie’s spunk, confidence, sense of humor, fabulous friends, place she calls home, and her career?! What’s not to love?

3.      Wine, beer or vodka? 

I do enjoy a merlot or cabernet sauvignon—something thick and robust.

4.      Camping or spa vacation? 

I don’t do camping at all. It’s always a bit of a disaster and I end up in a sour mood—it’s fun for no one. I’ll take a pampering spa vacation any day!

5.      Water or mountains?

I’m from Southern California so have an automatic appreciation (and twinge obsession) with the water. I dream of making a sailboat my permanent address some day where I can write, read, sip that red wine (and eat that cheese), and kick back and say, “It doesn’t get any better than this!”

6.      Zombies or vampires? 

Neither. Ghosts…now there’s some fun.

7.      Dogs or cats? 

Dogs. Puggles are the best!

8.      Coke or Pepsi? 

Neither. I like my bubbles from mineral water and my sugar from dessert!

9.      Coffee or tea? 

Both, but a strong latte macchiato every morning or cups upon cups of a French press brew always hit the spot.

10.  Dine out or take away?

I do quite a bit of take out, but dining out can mean getting dressed up, meeting friends, not having to do any clean-up. It just may have to be the winner.

11.  High heels, sneakers or flip flops? 

I fancy high heels (but with my feet injuries I sadly don’t wear them as often as I’d like); I wear sneakers only in the gym (Toms and fashionable flats don’t count as sneakers, of course); and flip flops are always in style, quick to slip into, and easy to pair with an outfit.

12.  Physical Book or ebook? 

I read 50/50. Like many, I love the feel of a physical book (and how they dress up my bookshelves so prettily), but the lightweight factor of an ebook and the ability to have a zillion books at my fingertips in a nanosecond is a godsend.

13.  Paperback or Hardcover? 

Almost always paperback. (Harry Potter and F. Scott Fitzgerald, however, demanded to grace my bookshelves as hardcovers.)

14.  Pen or pencil? 

Definitely both. Although I recently found these awesome erasable pens (Pilot frixion) that come in a bunch of colors (and as highlighters, too). They write so smoothly and erase brilliantly. I tell everyone and their dog about them. I’m an organization freak and tend to change my mind a lot, so having an erasable color-coding option is so nice. They’re fabulous for plotting.

15.  Mad Men, Downton Abbey or Breaking Bad? 

Mad Men all the way!

16.  Drama or comedy? 

That’s a tough one, but laughing is the best medicine and mood booster.

17.  Twilight or Hunger Games? 

I’ll admit I gave Twilight a shot and couldn’t get into it. I’ve yet to join the Hunger Games craze, but it’s on my to-do list.

18.  Lipstick, lipgloss or chapstick? 

All three are in the purse, but chapsticks are in all the rooms.

19.  Facebook or Twitter? 

They both have their perks. I just can’t decide.

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

I’m a plotter. That’s not to say things go strictly according to plan throughout the writing process. Characters are always throwing wrenches in plots and new ideas are always cropping up as I write. Usually my beginnings and endings are nearly set in stone before I sit down to start the novel, the rest fairly well plotted yet open to change. I’ve always enjoyed the notion of writing being an adventure so I try to put my well-organized and OCD self to the side and let the magic take over.

When Girlfriends Let Go

A novel about love, self-discovery, and realizing sometimes you have to let go. 

Jackie Kittredge is the consummate drama queen living the charmed life. She’s enthusiastic, outspoken, and is always looking for a good time. At twenty-seven she’s got a swanky Seattle townhouse, a wealthy husband, a designer wardrobe, the best of girlfriends, and a calendar filled not with meetings and deadlines, but spa appointments and happy hour reminders. On the outside, she’s got it all. 

On the inside, though, Jackie’s charmed life isn’t as it seems. She’s seeing a therapist, battling the demons of coming from a broken home and a past of promiscuity and heavy drinking. She can be selfish and demanding, sometimes even wearing her best friends thin. And now her marriage—what she thought could be her solid foundation—is on the rocks. Her husband Andrew spends nearly all his time at the office (and possibly with his secretary), and apologizes for his absence with lavish gifts and empty promises. 

Miserable and desperate, Jackie questions if her marriage is worth fighting for. Then a string of events begins to put things into perspective…into a perspective she didn’t quite anticipate. With her best friends by her side and some tough love, Jackie finds herself not only asking if she’s where she belongs, but if she’s who she’s supposed to be. 

This is a passionate story about having to answer some of life’s most important and difficult questions. It’s a story about fear, courage, and personal growth. About what happens when girlfriends let go. 

Available at:
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Sunday, August 3, 2014

Cancel The Wedding by Carolyn Dingman

4 Star

On the surface, Olivia has it all: a high-powered career, a loving family, and a handsome fiancé. She even seems to be coming to terms with her mother Jane’s premature death from cancer. But when Jane’s final wish is revealed, Olivia and her elder sister Georgia are mystified. Their mother rarely spoke of her rural Southern hometown, and never went back to visit—so why does she want them to return to Huntley, Georgia, to scatter her ashes?

Jane’s request offers Olivia a temporary escape from the reality she’s long been denying: she hates her “dream” job, and she’s not really sure she wants to marry her groom-to-be. With her 14-year-old niece, Logan, riding shotgun, she heads South on a summer road trip looking for answers about her mother.

As Olivia gets to know the town’s inhabitants, she begins to peel back the secrets of her mother’s early life—truths that force her to finally question her own future. But when Olivia is confronted with a tragedy and finds an opportunity to right a terrible wrong, will it give her the courage to accept her mother’s past—and say yes to her own desire to start over?

Sabrina-Kate - 4 Star

The story of Olivia was pretty interesting and emotional as it involved her coming to terms with the death of her mother, Jane, to cancer and her dying wishes. Olivia has to not only deal with her feelings over losing her mother but she also begins to discover a whole other life and experiences that her mother had that she knew nothing about which must have been somewhat heartbreaking to discover.

I would have rated Cancel the Wedding higher if I didn't find that the beginning was a bit confusing during the period when Olivia started to discover and understand her mother's past. If the details had to be revealed a little bit at a time then it could have been done in a way that was more logical or at least not so trying at times to follow.

The story of Olivia's life becomes as tangled and complicated as her mother's past, which is saying something. Riddled by doubts, the revelations about her mother's life help her to ultimately come to terms with her own and make some important decisions.

A fascinating read with complex twists and turns, Cancel the Wedding is a book for someone who likes a little mystery in their story.

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

Connect with Carolyn Dingman:
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